Murphy signs order that ensures full stimulus checks get to residents — regardless of credit issues

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Wednesday that is meant to ensure that New Jerseyans get their full stimulus checks — free of garnishment from banks or other creditors.

“I am issuing an executive order exempting stimulus payment under the American Rescue Plan from garnishment by creditors and other debt collectors,” he said. “We have also secured support from 49 banks and credit unions to protect the rescue payments being received by New Jersey residents from being garnished for past debts or overdrawn accounts.”

The announcement is aimed at protecting the funds to New Jersey residents in a way that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan does not. Written within the stimulus legislation is language that allows private debts to be garnished.

This language makes this third stimulus package different from the two that came before it. The first stimulus bill passed back in spring 2020 allowed payments to be garnished only for child support payments that are overdue, while the second bill from December had provisions that protected payments from garnishment.

Murphy, speaking at his COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, said the order has one purpose — to get the money in the hands of residents who need it, rather than in the hands of the banks.

“The American Rescue Plan is for the American people — not for banks and creditors,” he said. “We want residents who have received funds to be able to put those funds to use as they deem necessary.”

Other notes from the briefing:

Health metrics

Murphy reported that New Jersey has 3,227 new positive COVID-19 cases confirmed via PCR testing and 1,110 confirmed via antigen testing. In total, 877,936 positive cases have been confirmed since March 2020.

On Tuesday, 267 COVID patients were discharged from hospitals around the state, while 312 others were newly admitted. There were 27 in-hospital deaths that are awaiting lab confirmation. In addition, 28 more New Jerseyans have been confirmed to have lost their lives to COVID-related complications. In total since last March, the state has reported 21,757 confirmed COVID deaths, with an additional 2,535 deaths classified as “probable.”

Murphy also said that 3,638,002 vaccinations had been placed in the arms of residents as of Wednesday morning. This total includes roughly 1.3 million residents who are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, either by getting their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Additionally, through the state’s pharmacy vaccination program, CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens have now vaccinated 34,500 educators since March 5.

Other hospital numbers:

  • In hospital: 2,136 (2,010 confirmed, 126 awaiting confirmation);
  • In ICU: 430;
  • On ventilators: 218;
  • Rate of transmission: 09;
  • Positivity rate: 49% (from March 20).

In-person school instruction

The governor announced that the Department of Health has released its revised guidance on K-12 in-class instruction, as the need for in-person instruction has become a hot topic of debate.

“If masking and frequent hand-washing can be maintained by students, educators and support staff in the classroom, then full-time, in-person instruction can begin with the distance between students within that classroom reduced to 3 feet,” he said.

This new guidance applies to all elementary school students across all community transmission risk levels, and middle and high school students who are classified as low or moderate risk. However, communities who have a rate of transmission that is deemed “high” by the Department of Health will have to continue to practice social distancing with a distance of 6 feet, he said.

Murphy was joined by the commissioner of the Department of Health, Judy Persichilli, who provided some color on the risk of in-school transmission.

“Based on available data, in-person learning in schools has not been associated with substantial community transmission,” she said. “Though outbreaks do occur in school settings, multiple studies have shown that transmission within the school setting is typically lower than or at least similar to levels of community transmission when mitigation strategies are in place.”

Currently, schools still appear to be trending towards in-person instruction, as approximately 990,000 students are currently having some sort of in-person instruction, while only 301,856 students are still operating under an all-remote instruction model.

Final word

Murphy on New Jersey’s vaccination progress:

“We know that there is still a lot of pent-up demand for vaccines. We are hopeful that we are now entering into the last week before our supplies begin to grow significantly and that we can open up many more appointment slots. But, make no mistake — we are making significant progress every day. We remain among the top states in terms of our distribution. We are the 11th most populous state, so we have been covering a lot more ground than some of the other states that may be ahead of us in one category or another.”