Emergency bills to assist public employers and school districts passed the Senate yesterday and are currently awaiting approval by Governor Murphy. Below is a brief summary of some of the bills.

A3850 - This bill allows public bodies to conduct meetings by electronic means during periods of emergency. It explicitly authorizes a public body to conduct a meeting and public business, cause a meeting to be open to the public, vote, and receive public comment by means of communication or other electronic equipment during a state of emergency, public health emergency, or state of local disaster emergency. The bill also allows a public body to provide notice of meetings electronically through the internet during that time, but requires that public bodies who exercise this option limit, to the extent practicable, the public business conducted at that meeting to matters necessary for the continuing operation of government and that relate to the applicable emergency declaration. The bill does not modify any current authorization under law to do anything permitted under the bill during periods when such declarations of emergency are not in effect.

A3851 – This bill authorizes the Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs to extend the statutory dates for the introduction and approval, and for the adoption, of county and municipal budgets when the Governor has declared a Public Health Emergency or State of Emergency.

A3846 – This bill creates “Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program” to allow individuals affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic to recoup actual lost wages due to absence from work under certain circumstances and to assist employers who pay wages to workers who are ordered under quarantine by a licensed healthcare practitioner as a result of coronavirus disease 2019.  Specifically, the program will provide, to the extent funds are available, monetary relief to individuals for actual lost wages in an amount that is equivalent to the individual’s average weekly rate of compensation from the past calendar year, if the individuals do not have fully paid leave.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development will use moneys in the fund, in an amount not to exceed $10,000,000, to pay the lost wages of individuals due to:    

      (1)  the individual’s absence from work due to the need to care for a family member;

      (2)  the individual’s absence from work due to the illness of the individual;

      (3)  the individual’s absence from work due to school or childcare facility being closed; and

      (4)  for such other purposes as determined by the commissioner.

No moneys shall be paid to an individual for any period or wages for which the individual receives benefits pursuant to the "unemployment compensation law," R.S.43:21-1 et seq.

Moneys in the fund may be supplemented or replaced, or both, by any amounts received from the federal government for the same purposes as provided in the bill.

Additionally, the department will use moneys in the fund, not to exceed $10,000,000, to assist employers who pay wages to workers who are ordered under quarantine by a licensed healthcare practitioner as a result of coronavirus disease 2019.

A3840 – This bill provides direction to school districts for the provision of school meals to students if the districts are directed by either the New Jersey Department of Health or the health officer of the jurisdiction to institute a public health-related closure due to the COVID-19 epidemic.  Under these circumstances, the district is required to implement a program during the period of the school closure to provide school meals to all district students who are eligible for the free and reduced-price school lunch and school breakfast programs. 

Under the program, the school district is required to collaborate with county and municipal government officials to identify one or more school meal distribution sites that are walkable and easily accessible to students in the district.  The bill lists possible sites including, but not limited to:  faith-based locations; community centers, such as YMCAs; and locations in the school district where summer meals are available.  When school is in a high-density housing area, it must make every effort to identify a school meal distribution site in that housing area.

Students not located within walking distance to school may have up to three days of meals delivered to bus stop locations.

If a school district is unable to provide school meals pursuant to school meal distribution sites or through distributions at the student’s residence, the school district must establish a food voucher system for these students. Under the food voucher system funds will be provided to students to enable them to access nutritious food at food retail stores.  The State will bear any costs not reimbursed by the federal government which school districts incur in effectuating the provisions of this bill.

A3818 – This bill permits the use of virtual or remote instruction to meet minimum 180-day school year requirement under the following circumstances:

  • A district shall submit its proposed program of virtual or remote instruction to the commissioner when it wants to use a program of virtual or remote instruction to meet the 180-day requirement in accordance with one of the allowed emergency situations.
  • A day of virtual or remote instruction, if instituted under a program approved by the commissioner, shall be considered the equivalent of a full day of school attendance for the purposes of meeting State and local graduation requirements, the awarding of course credit, and such other matters as determined by the commissioner.
  • If a program of virtual or remote instruction is implemented for the general education students the same educational opportunities shall be provided to the special education students, to the extent appropriate and practicable.  Speech-language services and counseling services may be delivered to special education students through the use of electronic communication or a virtual or online platform, as appropriate.
  • The commissioner shall define virtual and remote instruction and establish guidance for its use. The guidance shall provide school districts with information on:

(1) providing instruction to students who may not have access to a computer or to sufficient broadband, or to any technology required for virtual or remote instruction;

(2) the required length of a virtual or remote instruction day;

(3) the impact of virtual or remote instruction on the school lunch and school breakfast programs;

(4) the impact of virtual or remote instruction on the schedule for administering State assessments; and

(5) such other topics as the commissioner deems necessary.

New Bill Introduce in Senate to be sent to Assembly for Consideration

S2304 - The Senate introduced and passed S2304 - amending various parts of family leave and disability benefits to include times during epidemic-related emergencies. An employer shall permit an employee to use the earned sick leave accrued pursuant to this act for a closure of the employee's workplace, or the school or place of care of a child of the employee by order of a public official or because of a state of emergency declared by the Governor, due to an epidemic or other public health emergency, or the issuance by a  health care provider or the  Commissioner of Health or other public health authority of a determination that the presence in the community of the employee, or a member of the employee's family in need of care by the employee, would jeopardize the health of others and the employee undergoes isolation or quarantine, or cares for a family member in quarantine. It also eliminates the current one-week waiting period for an individual's own disability if the disability is for a pandemic related sickness as described the bill.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Carolyn Chaudry, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.