COVID-19 legislative roundup: Looking at top bills impacting business

By ROI-NJ Staff
Trenton | Mar 20, 2020 at 1:32 pm

New Jersey’s General Assembly and Senate have passed a number of bills involving COVID-19, all of which are expected to be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

We want to give you a snapshot on what they are about — and who they are intended to serve.

To do that quickly, we are relying on the public affairs team at Archer to deliver some of the context.

We do this with the knowledge that everything is being updated and acted upon much faster than usual. We will update as we get word:

Treasury & economic development

Authorizes EDA to make grants during the state of emergency and for the duration of the same (A3845/S2284)

  • Appropriates $25 million from the general fund to the Economic Development Authority;
  • Expands the EDA small business loan program to provide these loans to small businesses with less than 100 employees;
  • Allows the EDA to end these loans once the governor has rescinded the declared state of emergency.

This bill authorizes the EDA to provide grants during periods of state of emergency and for the duration of economic disruptions due to the emergency.

Employment

Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program (A3846/S2293)

  • Expands eligibility under the sick leave law, the family temporary disability leave law, the temporary disability benefits law and the family leave act to include situations related to COVID-19.

This bill allows persons to claim for lost wages due to coronavirus disease, and employers to pay wages to workers ordered under quarantine by licensed health care practitioner. The bill further appropriates $20 million to underwrite the program. – Archer

Penalizes employers who terminate or refuse to reinstate employees who request or use time off for work in connection with infectious disease (A3848/S2301)

  • Prohibits employers from firing employees taking off work under a doctor’s orders;
  • Penalizes employers $2,500 for not allowing employees to return to work.

This bill prohibits an employer from terminating or refusing to reinstate an employee if the employee requests or takes time off from work based on a recommendation from a medical professional licensed in New Jersey that the employee take time off work for a specified period of time because the employee has, or is likely to have, an infectious disease which may infect others at the employee’s workplace.

Business & corporations

Permits corporations to hold shareholder meetings in part or solely by means of remote communication during state of emergency (A3861/S2290)

  • Current law requires meetings take place at a physical location within the state – this allows the entire meeting to be online;
  • This will be an ongoing exception for future emergencies.

Under the bill, during a state of emergency, a meeting of shareholders may be held by means of remote communication to the extent the board authorizes and adopts guidelines and procedures governing such a meeting. The bill also provides that shareholders participating by remote communication are deemed present in person and are entitled to vote at the meeting.

Schools

Permits use of virtual or remote instruction to meet minimum 180-day school year requirement under certain circumstances (A3813/S2292)

  • Permits K-12 school districts to use virtual or remote instruction if it is required to close more than three school days;
  • This bill applies to future emergencies.

This bill would allow school districts, including county vocational school districts, or county special services school districts, to meet the 180-day requirement in a year with an excessive number of unexpected school closures due to an epidemic, or a weather or other emergency through the use of virtual or remote instruction.

Requires school districts to provide school meals or meal vouchers to students eligible for free and reduced-price school meals during school closures due to COVID-19 epidemic (A3840/S2281)

  • Provides meals or vouchers to public school students who are eligible for free and reduced school lunches and breakfasts;
  • The state will bear any costs not reimbursed by the federal government;
  • This applies only to the COVID-19 health emergency.

Health care

Requires health insurance and Medicaid coverage for testing of coronavirus disease and for telemedicine and telehealth during coronavirus disease state of emergency (A3843/S2283)

  • It applies only if a medical order has been issued for testing;
  • It also waives copays and deductibles paid by patients for testing.

This bill requires health insurance carriers (health, hospital and medical service corporations, health maintenance organizations and insurance companies), as well as the state and school employees’ health benefits programs and the state Medicaid program, to provide coverage for expenses incurred in the testing for coronavirus, provided that a licensed medical practitioner has issued a medical order for that testing or that the testing is ordered through telemedicine or telehealth.

Authorizes all licensed health care facilities and laboratories to collect specimens to test for coronavirus disease; allows waiver of staffing ratio requirements (A3854/S2286)

  • It permits the commissioner of health to waive staffing ratio requirements during a public health emergency, which will be ongoing in future emergencies;
  • It authorizes health care facilities and clinical labs to develop and administer a test for COVID-19.

Enables all licensed health care facilities and clinical laboratories to collect specimens for the purposes of testing for COVID-19. Waives mandatory minimum staffing ratios for health care facilities.

Supplemental appropriation of $10 million to provide monies for health care and residential facility sanitation made necessary by the coronavirus disease outbreak (A3856/S2297)

  • The commissioners of health, human services, children and families, and community affairs are left to determine how the funding will be distributed;
  • This applies only to the COVID-19 health emergency.

This bill makes a FY 2020 supplemental appropriation of $10 million for health care and residential facility sanitation due to the coronavirus outbreak. Under the bill, the $10 million application is to be used to provide financial assistance to certain health care and residential facilities in meeting the sanitation demands imposed by the coronavirus.

Local government

Allows public bodies to conduct meetings, and provide notice, by electronic means during periods of emergency (A3850/S2294)

  • It authorizes state and local public meetings via telephone or video conference to conduct meetings, votes and receive public comment during a state of emergency, public health emergency or disaster emergency;
  • This will be an ongoing exception for future emergencies.

The bill requires that public bodies who exercise this option to 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.

Permits extension of deadlines for adoption of county and municipal budgets under certain circumstances (A3851/S2295)

  • Extends the deadlines for the introduction, approval and adoption of county and municipal budgets during times of emergency by at least 60 days;
  • This will be an ongoing exception for future emergencies.

This bill would expand the current authority of the Department of Community Affairs’ director of the Division of Local Government Services, to extend the statutory dates for the introduction and approval, and for the adoption, of county and municipal budgets.

Allows conduct of state business and legislative sessions at locations other than Trenton during periods of emergency or other exigency; allows conduct of legislative business using electronic means (A3852/S2296)

  • Current law requires the Legislature to conduct business, such as sessions, in Trenton;
  • This will be an ongoing exception for future emergencies.

Establishes certain requirements to use telemedicine and telehealth to respond to COVID-19 (A3860/S2289)

  • Permits health care providers to use telemedicine and telehealth during a public health emergency, regardless of whether regulations have been adopted.

The new law allows any practitioner who is not licensed or certified to practice in New Jersey to provide health care services via telemedicine and telehealth, provided that:

  1. The practitioner is licensed or certified to practice in another state or territory of the United States or in the District of Columbia, and is in good standing in that jurisdiction;
  2. The services provided by that practitioner are consistent with the practitioner’s authorized scope of practice in their licensed jurisdiction;
  3. Unless the practitioner has a preexisting provider-patient relationship with the patient that is unrelated to COVID-19, the services provided will be limited to services related to screening for, diagnosing, or treating COVID-19; and
  4. In the event that the practitioner determines via a telemedicine or telehealth encounter with a patient located in New Jersey will not involve screening for, diagnosing or treating COVID-19, and the practitioner does not have a preexisting provider-patient relationship with the patient that is unrelated to COVID-19, the practitioner must recommend that the patient initiate a new telemedicine or telehealth encounter with a licensed New Jersey health care practitioner.

Permits professional and occupational licensing boards to expedite licensure of certain individuals during state of emergency or public health emergency (A3862/S2298)

  • It allows the Division of Consumer Affairs to adopt emergency rules for licensing;
  • This will be an ongoing exception for future emergencies.

This bill allows the director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, with the approval of the attorney general, to expedite the professional and occupational licensing process for out-of-state individuals. To be eligible for expedited treatment, the individual applying for a specific license, registration or certification in New Jersey must have a corresponding license, registration or certification in good standing in another jurisdiction.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus:

ROI-NJ Staff | editorial@roi-nj.com | @roinjnews