Gov. Phil Murphy and Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo both encouraged employers to pay their employees — saying both parties would benefit in the long run.
The pair, speaking at the state’s daily briefing, said the state is facing unprecedented times. Asaro-Angelo said the Department of Labor & Workforce Development has seen a 12-fold increase in applications for benefits in the past week — a number that temporarily crashed the state’s online system.
Asaro-Angelo preached patience.
“We understand there is uncertainty and anxiety out there,” he said. “Workers and businesses each have a part to play to ensure we all get through this crisis together.”
Asaro-Angelo said the continuation of payment to workers is key because it keeps the economy moving. It also will enable employers to qualify for federal reimbursement.
“The federal government is moving COVID-19 aid packages that will reimburse them 100% for giving employees 100% COVID-19 sick days and family leave,” he said. “If the bill passes as written and expected, 99.9% of New Jersey employers will be able to defray months’ worth of employee time off related to COVID-19.
“We ask for your patience. We have seen a 12-fold increase in benefit applications this week and we’re experiencing extraordinarily high call volumes. Please note: If you can’t get through by phone or online, your claim will be back-dated so you won’t lose a day’s benefit that is doing to you.”
Murphy again said he understands the pressures small businesses are under.
“Our entire economic team, from my office to the Economic Development Authority, is currently working alongside the federal Small Business Administration to ensure that available financial relief can flow into New Jersey as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said.
“Our full application was submitted this morning, and we are pushing to get that approval as swiftly as possible. We are also working to ensure continuity of operations for ongoing construction projects. In addition, we are working with our partners in the Legislature in hopes of standing up a state business-assistance program within the coming week.”
Murphy also said he is encouraging banks, particularly the local and regional lenders who are deeply embedded in their communities, to do the right thing. Murphy said he wants them to work directly with their small business clients to defer loan payments, or to open up credit lines for critical working capital whenever possible.
“I also urge banks to do what they can for their mortgage customers to make loan repayment much more flexible in the coming weeks and months,” he said. “This is particularly true for workers in the hardest-hit sectors, who work by-the-hour, or those in the gig economy.”
Murphy reiterated the fact that not paying employees would prevent them from taking advantage of what he believes are the significant sick-leave and paid family leave benefits that are coming.
“I thank every business — large and small — doing the right thing and keeping their employees on payroll, in whichever way they are doing it. We implore every business owner, to every degree possible, to follow their model and to continue paying workers.”