COVID-19 News & Information

To Our Valued Clients, Friends and Family:

We are in the midst of the most challenging times in many of our lives. Covid-19 is affecting all of us in many ways. Our personal and our business lives and worlds are uncertain right now, and uncertainty is a difficult foundation to stand on. We understand the stress and fears you are facing. We are facing them too. As always, WJ&L is here to face whatever is happening now, and what lies ahead, together with you. We are adapting and working with new tools in this new and constantly changing environment. We have mobilized our staff to work remotely so that we are able to continue to serve your ongoing legal needs, and deal with these new challenges. When you need us, you can call or email as usual.

A PERSONAL THOUGHT. Some of you may remember reading “Alice In Wonderland,” a/k/a “Through The Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll. Once Alice fell through the glass, she was lost and confused by what she saw and how nothing was “normal” anymore. If you do not know, (spoiler alert) the key to Alice’s exit from Wonderland, was to accept the order in the disorder that she faced, and when she found the order in chaos, she was able to return home. We will help you find order once again.

Here are some areas that you may be thinking about at this time:

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EMPLOYMENT MATTERS. As employers and employees, the rights and obligations on both sides of this aisle need to be monitored, identified when they are finally established, and then properly and carefully applied.

• Congress has now passed, and the president has now signed, H.R. 6201, also known as the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” The law contains two important provisions that affect employers and employees: the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. Both of these Acts will apply to all private employers and covered public agencies with fewer than 500 employees.

BUSINESS ECONOMICS. What financial assistance is being put into place to help employers, businesses and individuals through this emergency?

• The SBA approved New Jersey’s application for “disaster” designation which now allows state small businesses to apply for loans of up to $2M.

• Changes to unemployment entitlements to aid employees who have lost a job due to the crisis are being finalized for implementation.

ESTATE PLANNING. Your estate planning, and in particular the completion of your living-will, or advance medical directive, should be examined, updated if necessary, or put in place if you have not already done so.

CONTRACTS AND TRANSACTIONS. If you are in any ongoing contract or other agreement where rights and obligations of parties are part of the agreement, these terms and conditions need to be reviewed and analyzed. There is legislation in the works to address tolling or postponing certain obligations in private and public contracts. Others still may need to be performed.

GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND DEVELOPMENT APPLICATIONS. If you are in the process of making applications to governmental authorities, boards or agencies, we need to see which governmental offices and agencies are shut, which are open for business, and how we can keep this process moving.

• Some boards and agencies are holding meetings without public in attendance via electronic devices as allowed under the Open Public Meetings Act.

LITIGATION MATTERS. If you are engaged in any ongoing legal action in the courts, we need to identify if and how your matter can or will continue as many courts are still open for business as needed.

To give you an idea of how the playing field is changing, and how lawmakers are trying to react and keep up, below you will find a list of 26 Bills and Resolutions that were approved and passed by the NJ Senate and Assembly last week. You will also find links to some of the salient Executive Orders from Governor Murphy last week. Some of these might be of interest to you. These materials make us think of how far-reaching this problem is. Executive Order 107 further enforces the social distancing measures deemed necessary to slow the curve of the virus, substantially curtailing most business operations and all forms of public and private gatherings. In addition to the information listed below, here is the link to the NJ COVID-19 FAQ website for businesses updated daily: https://faq.business.nj.gov/en/collections/2198378-information-for-nj-businesses-on-the-coronavirus-outbreak. You can also go tohttps://covid19.nj.gov/ for recent NJ updates.

We have been and will continue to monitor this situation for our clients as it is a constant state of flux. With that in mind, what is most important if for you is to take care of yourselves and your families, and make sure to reach out to those you know who might be alone or at high risk.

BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS:

The bill, A-3095/S-1982, sponsored by Senators Beach and Turner, would give county clerks an extra week to proof, print, prepare and send mail-in ballots to voters. The bill would help county clerks handle the significant number of mail-in ballots that are expected to be used during the 2020 primary election.

• The bill, A-3813/S-2292, sponsored by Senators Cardinale, Beach and Kean, would allow remote learning to apply to the 180-day instruction requirement for school districts during extended emergency school closures. This bill would apply for both a declared state of emergency and a public health emergency.

• The bill, A-3840/S-2281, sponsored by Senators Ruiz and Cunningham, would require school districts to provide meals to students enrolled in the free or reduced meal program during COVID-19 school closings. The bill provides direction as to how schools may distribute meals or meal vouchers.

• The bill, A-3841/S-2300, sponsored by Senators Diegnan and Sarlo, would automatically extend the deadline to file a gross income tax or corporation business tax return if the federal government extends the filing or payment due date for federal returns.

• The bill, A-3842/S-2282, sponsored by Senators Ruiz, Kean and Rice, would allocate funds to expand access to laptops, tablets, hot spot devices and other technology for students to use at home or at school. This bill would address the digital divide and ensure students have the technology they need for remote instruction.

• The bill, A-3843/S-2283, sponsored by Senators Vitale, Lagana and Pou, would require health insurance and Medicaid to cover testing for COVID-19, telehealth and telemedicine services, without cost-sharing requirements, during the state of emergency.

• The bill, A-3845/S-2284, sponsored by Senators Cruz-Perez, Stack, Kean and Bucco, would authorize the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to provide grants during periods of emergency declared by the Governor, such as the coronavirus, and for the duration of the economic disruptions caused by the emergency.

• The bill, A-3846/S-2293, sponsored by Senators Madden and Lagana, would create the “Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program” to allow those affected by coronavirus to recoup wages lost and to assist employers who pay wages to workers under quarantine. The bill appropriates $20 million for the program.

• The bill, A-3848/S-2301, sponsored by Senator Weinberg, would prohibit an employer from terminating, or refusing to reinstate, an employee who takes time off from work at the recommendation of a medical professional due to an infectious disease.

• The bill, A-3849/S-2302, sponsored by Senators Bucco and Cruz-Perez, would allow a flexible deadline for OPRA requests during a statewide or local emergency. In those instances, the bill would require a reasonable effort be made to respond in seven business days, or as soon as possible thereafter.

• The bill, A-3850/S-2294, sponsored by Senators Beach and Bucco, would allow a public body to conduct meetings electronically during a statewide or local emergency. Under the bill, public business conducted electronically should be limited to matters necessary for the continuing operation of government or related to the applicable declarations of emergency.

• The bill, A-3851/S-2295, sponsored Senators Bucco and Gopal, would permit the extension of deadlines for adopting county and municipal budgets when the Governor has declared a public health emergency, a state of emergency or both.

• The bill, A-3852/S-2296, Senators Sweeney and Kean, would allow the conduct of state business and legislative sessions at locations other than Trenton during periods of emergency, as determined by the Governor or the Legislature. Under the bill, the legislature would be able to use available technology to conduct business and comply with the requirements of the New Jersey Constitution.

• The bill, A-3854/S-2286, sponsored by Senators Vitale and Gill, would authorize all licensed health care facilities and clinical laboratories to collect specimens to test for COVID-19 for the duration of the public health emergency.

• The bill, A-3855/S-2287, sponsored by Senators Kean and Codey, would require the statewide 2-1-1 system and all executive branch departments to prominently display information concerning food access programs and resources through their websites and social media for the duration of any declared public health emergency.

• The bill, A-3856/S-2297, sponsored by Senator Gopal, would appropriate $10 million for health care and residential facility sanitation due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Eligible facilities would include nursing homes, senior centers, long-term care facilities and homeless shelters, among others.

• The bill, A-3857/S-2275, sponsored by Senator Cryan, would appropriate $15 million for grants to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the Food Bank of South Jersey and Fulfill Monmouth and Ocean to provide assistance to families in need.

• The bill, A-3858/S-2288, sponsored by Senators Greenstein and Vitale, would direct the Commissioner of Human Services to issue supplemental cash assistance payments to eligible recipients of the Work First New Jersey Program, in addition to their standard benefits, during a public health emergency in which it is determined the standard benefits are insufficient to support the needs of recipients.

• The bill, A-3859/S-2276, sponsored by Senators Cryan and Pou, would allow the Governor to issue an executive order to prohibit residential tenant evictions and foreclosure evictions during a public health emergency or state of emergency.

• The bill, A-3860/S-2289, sponsored by Senator Vitale, would authorize any health care practitioner to provide and bill for services using telemedicine and telehealth during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

• The bill, A-3861/S-2290, sponsored by Senator Diegnan, would permit corporations to hold shareholder meetings in part or solely by means of remote communications during a state of emergency.

• The bill, A-3862/S-2298, sponsored by Senators Pou and Kean, would allow professional or occupational licensing boards to grant licenses, certificates of registration and certifications on an expedited basis to individuals who hold a corresponding credential, in good standing, in another state, during a state of emergency or a public health emergency.

• The bill, A-3864/S-2299, sponsored by Senator Greenstein, would allow notaries public to perform certain notarial acts remotely, using communication technology.

• The bill, A-3865/S-2291, sponsored by Senator Addiego, would prohibit retail food stores from accepting the return of any groceries and other food products purchased during, and for 30 days following, a state of emergency declared in response to COVID-19.

• The concurrent resolution, ACR-165/SCR-109, sponsored by Senators Vitale and Pou, would urge the Department of Human Services to apply for any federal waivers available to facilitate and increase access to SNAP benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak.

• The joint resolution, AJR-158/SJR-77, sponsored by Senator Cruz-Perez, urges the Federal Communications Commission to take temporary measures to secure broadband access for those affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

NJ Executive Orders or Directives to Date:

Governor Murphy declares a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency, effective immediately:
https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/05murphy/pdf/EO-103.pdf

Governor Murphy Announces Aggressive Social Distancing Measures to Mitigate Further Spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey:
https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-104.pdf

Mandatory Closure of All Indoor Portions of Retail Shopping Malls, Places of Public Amusement:
https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/docs/20200317_admin-order.pdf

Governor Murphy Enacts Moratorium on Removals of Individuals Due to Evictions or Foreclosures:
https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-106.pdf

Governor Murphy directs all residents to stay at home until further notice:
https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-107.pdf

Governor Murphy invalidates any county or municipal restriction that in any way will or might conflict with any of the provisions of Executive Order No. 107:
https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-108.pdf

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