Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli
Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro

Star-Ledger – The state Legislature has approved an emergency package of bills mobilized in response to the global coronavirus crisis that’s shuttered schools and businesses across New Jersey.

The two dozen measures authorize grants to help schools purchase equipment for remote learning, to help small businesses meet payroll and for food banks to stock their shelves.

The package includes $10 million in aid to New Jersey workers (S2293) who miss work — but don’t qualify for unemployment — because their child’s school is closed, they are ill or they need to care for a family member. It sets aside another $10 million to assist employers who continue to pay the wages of employees ordered into quarantine.

Another bill (S3859) would allow the governor to place a moratorium on evictions of homeowners amid foreclosure proceedings or evictions of rental tenants during and for up to two months after a widespread crisis.

Murphy announced just hours later he signed the measure into law and signed an executive order to halt evictions and foreclosures during the outbreak.

Under the legislation that passed, banks and landlords in the state could still pursue evictions and foreclosures during this time but would not be able to carry out an actual removal under the order is lifted.

New Jerseyans receiving cash assistance through Work First New Jersey public assistance program would collect increased benefits if the state “determines that the standard benefits issued under the Work First New Jersey program are not sufficient to support the needs of recipients in the state,” according to the bill (A3858).

Thirty-four senators were present for Thursday’s session, voting by “yes” or “no” voice vote from the larger Assembly chambers to accommodate social distancing. The Senate passed the bills under its emergency rules that allow it to ignore the normal rules of procedure and expedite legislation.

The Legislature worked quickly to put these bills in front of the governor, introducing them on Monday and giving final approval Thursday.

“We came here today because we thought it was extremely important to get a lot of this stuff done, because New Jersey families have to know that we’re not taking off. We’re following through to make sure they’re as safe as they can be,” state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told reporters in a conference call after adjourning.

Sweeney said he expects these bills are just the first wave as lawmakers trying to respond to an unprecedented crisis. He said he is still working through legislation he recommended last week to extend unemployment insurance benefits and suspend payroll and sales tax collections.

Some of the bills heading to the governor would:

  • (A3813) Allow school districts in the state to meet the requirement they operate for 180 days with remote learning in the event of unexpected closures during a declared state of emergency. A day of remote instruction would be considered a full day of school attendance for the purposes of graduation requirements and course credits, according to the bill.
  • (A3840) Require school districts in the state to provide meals to students eligible for free- or reduced- lunch and breakfast. Districts would be instructed to set up easily accessible distribution points including in high-density housing areas if there are any. Districts would have to deliver meals to students who aren’t within walking distance of a site. And if a district can’t meet these requirements, it would have to supply food vouchers families can trade in at retail stores.
  • (A3841) Extend the state’s April 15 tax deadline if the federal government extends its filing or payment deadline first. The federal government already has given people more time to pay their taxes, though the federal deadline to file still stands.
  • (A3842) Create a grant program for schools in the state to purchase technology equipment, like laptops, tablets and mobile hot spots for students to use either at school or at home. The bill is meant to close the digital divide between districts that can afford devices for every students and those that cannot.
  • (A3843) Require health insurers in the state to cover coronavirus testing and telemedicine during a public health emergency or declared state of emergency. “The bill requires the coverage to be provided to the same extent as for any other services under the health benefits plan, except that no cost-sharing may be imposed on the coverage provided pursuant to the bill,” the legislation says.
  • (A3845) Permit the state’s Economic Development Authority to offer business grants during a declared emergency to go toward “the planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, reconstructing, improving, equipping, furnishing of a program,” including grants for working capital and meeting payroll.
  • (A3848) Prohibit employers in the state from firing an employee or refusing to reinstate an employee who takes time off work on the recommendation of their health care provider because the employee has or may have the novel coronavirus.
  • (A3850) Permit local government bodies in the state to hold public meetings electronically during an emergency. Likewise, a bill (A3852) would let the state Legislature to conduct its business remotely. Another bill (A3861) would allow corporations to host remote shareholder meetings, and one more (A3864) would let notaries to perform some of their acts remotely.
  • (A3851) Give the director of the state’s Division of Local Government Services power to unilaterally extend the deadlines for counties and municipalities to adopt their annual operating budgets during an official emergency.
  • (A3854) Allow any licensed health care facility in the state collect specimens for Covid-19 testing and give the health commissioner authority to waive health care staffing ratios during a public health crisis.
  • (A3856) Spend $10 million helping sanitize nursing homes, urgent care centers, retirement centers, senior centers, group homes, psychiatric hospitals rehabilitation centers, homeless shelters and others in the state
  • (A3857) Send $15 million to food banks in the state, including the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the Food Bank of South Jersey and Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean counties.
  • (A3860) Allow health care providers in the state to provide and bill for telemedicine.
  • (A3862) Permit the state’s professional licensing boards to expedite — including waiving criminal background checks — licenses and certifications to applicants who already hold a corresponding license or certification in another state
  • (A3865) Bar grocery stores in the state from accepting returns during the coronavirus outbreak and for 30 days after the state of emergency “to protect the public health.” They can accept returns because of manufacturer defect but they cannot put them up for sale again.

District Offices

Gloucester County

Kingsway Commons
935 Kings Highway, Suite 400
West Deptford, NJ 08086
Phone: (856) 251-9801
Fax: (856) 251-9752


Salem/Cumberland Counties

The Finlaw Building
199 East Broadway, Suite G
Salem, NJ 08079
Phone: (856) 339-0808 or
             (856) 455-1011
Fax: (856) 339-9626