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Update on COVID-19 (8/18/2020)

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As New Jersey continues under a state of emergency due to the coronavirus, please know that our district office remains available to serve constituents by phone and email. Included below are links to information that you may find helpful, along with important state and national news updates related to COVID-19.

Important State & Federal News:

  • Governor Orders Vote-by-Mail General Election: Gov. Murphy has issued an executive order to create a modified vote-by-mail (VBM) election for the November 3rd General Election. The order suspends the sending of sample ballots and requires that each county’s elections officials send VBM ballots with pre-paid postage to all active registered voters for the General Election. Additionally, every voter will have the option to either return their ballot through a secure drop box or turn in their ballot at a polling location on Election Day. In order to address the influx of VBM ballots, the executive order will extend the deadline to allow ballots being returned through the United States Postal Service (USPS) with a postmark on or before November 3rd to be counted as a valid ballot by the County Clerk, if received by 8:00 p.m. on November 10th. Ballots without a postmark that are received by the county boards of elections within 48 hours of the closing of polls on November 3rd shall be considered valid.
  • Schools to Open For In-Person Instruction Subject to Critical Health and Safety Protocols: The administration has announced that New Jersey’s public and private school districts will be open for in-person instruction for the start of the school year. Public school districts can begin the school year via remote-only instruction if they cannot adequately meet critical health and safety protocols outlined in the state’s school reopening guidance. The governor has signed Executive Order 175, which directs the following:
    • Districts are required to certify to DOE that they can meet the health and safety protocols outlined in the Order, and further detailed in the “Road Back,” before resuming in-person instruction. Private school districts will also be required to submit this certification;
    • Districts that can meet the health and safety protocols shall open to students for in-person instruction in the fall;
    • Even if school buildings are open for in-person instruction on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year, districts must provide a remote learning option for parents or guardians who request it for their children;
    • Districts unable to adequately meet health and safety reopening protocols must provide remote instruction to all students. These districts are required to submit documentation to DOE detailing which standard(s) the district is unable to satisfy, the anticipated efforts that will be taken to satisfy the standard(s), and a date by which the school anticipates resuming in-person instruction;
    • All schools required to participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program and those that voluntarily opt-in to those programs must offer required meals to all children on remote-learning days.
  • Updated Quarantine Advisory Issued for Individuals Traveling to NJ: Anyone traveling to New Jersey from states or territories with significant community spread of COVID-19 are advised to quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state or territory. The quarantine advisory currently applies to travelers  from 35 states and territories: Alabama; Alaska; Arkansas; Arizona; California; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Iowa; Idaho; Indiana; Illinois; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland; Minnesota; Missouri; Mississippi; Montana; North Carolina; North Dakota; Nebraska; Nevada; Oklahoma; Puerto Rico; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Virginia; Virgin Islands; and Wisconsin. Some school districts are advising teachers and families that they will be required to adhere to the quarantine rules if they return from high-risk states within two weeks of school starting, which may impact their ability to return to school on schedule.
  • Small and Micro Business PPE Access Program: The NJ PPE Access Program will help ensure that New Jersey’s small and micro businesses and non-profit organizations have access to the PPE they need for their operations, their employees and their customers. Launching in early September, the first phase of the program will provide small businesses with:
    • An online PPE planning tool (developed with the NJ Dept. of Health) to ensure that small and micro business know what PPE they need for their business
    • Links to pre-selected online PPE retailers that will offer businesses:
      • At minimum 10% off their PPE purchases
      • Assurances of product quality
      • Clear and transparent product offerings and pricing
      • A limited number of choices to make shopping easier
  • NJ Colleges & Universities to Receive $150 Million in Coronavirus Relief Funds: $150 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds will be awarded to New Jersey’s public and private colleges and universities to help offset costs incurred as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The application is available for eligible institutions to receive federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) from the state which can be used for costs such as those related to cleaning and disinfecting supplies, the transition to online learning, and support for testing, among other eligible costs.
  • Computer Labs Reopened at Colleges & Universities: An Administrative Order last week has authorized the reopening of computer labs at private and public colleges and universities in New Jersey. Computer labs at public and private colleges and universities must abide by the health and safety protocols as well as sanitization requirements that are described in the Administrative Order.
  • Emergency Grant Program to Assist Small Landlords & Tenants: A $25 million Small Landlord Emergency Grant Program will be administered by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. The program will provide emergency grant funding to small property owners for COVID-19 related decreases in rent revenue for a four-month period between April and July 2020. Funded through the CARES Act, grant amounts will be generated based on the total amount of missed rental payments and the number of COVID-impacted rental units that serve low- and moderate-income tenants. Landlords who receive assistance will be required to pass along benefits to their tenants by forgiving back rent and late fees accumulated by COVID-19 impacted units. The application portal opens tomorrow, Wednesday, August 19 at 9 AM and will remain open until Wednesday, August 26 at 1 PM.
  • Public Employees Will Be Permitted to Immediately Enroll in State Health Benefits Program: Executive Order No. 172 was signed allowing any public employee eligible for enrollment into the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) to immediately enroll upon hire, rather than waiting two months. Previously, under Executive Order No. 115, the two-month waiting period was waived only for public employees hired specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new order, which will last for the duration of the Public Health Emergency, applies to any public employee eligible for enrollment into the SHBP who is hired on or after March 9, 2020.
  • Executive Order Extends Certain Statutory Deadlines: An Executive Order was signed which temporarily extends certain statutory deadlines across state government that require review and action by agencies before a specified deadline. The statutory deadlines, in addition to certain effective dates that are being delayed, are included in the accompanying appendix to the order. The order will take effect immediately.

Important Resources:

  • The latest data on coronavirus infections in New Jersey are available on the New Jersey COVID-19 Dashboard. The dashboard has been updated to provide more information on long-term care facilities, State psychiatric hospitals, and overall demographics on COVID-19 deaths.
  • New Jersey’s COVID-19 Information Hub includes valuable resources and information for families, workers, and employers who have questions or needs arising from the current crisis.
  • Testing Sites:  To locate a testing location, specifics on how to get a test, and the hours of operation, click here.
  • Information for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Questions or need assistance? Call or email our legislative office.

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