Capitol Report: Pending legislation could help small businesses/law firms affected by COVID-19 pandemic

By NJSBA Staff posted 03-18-2020 08:44


As the New Jersey Legislature shed its regular committee schedule, it voted Tuesday on a set of bills to set forth a package to combat the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some of the bills promise to infuse cash-strapped small- and mid-sized businesses with stimulus money to carry them through the hardest hitting months. Others provide much-needed relief to those unemployed due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. Still others provide accommodations to conduct business while the country faces unprecedented curfews, lockdowns and prohibitions on travel that make business as usual a difficult proposition. All of the bills were introduced last Monday and passed the Assembly, and most passed in the Senate on Thursday. The ones that passed now await Gov. Phil Murphy's signature.  

Here is a summary of some of the bills that may affect the legal community:

A3845 (Freiman) would authorize the state Economic Development Authority to make grants during periods of emergency declared by the governor, such as the declaration regarding COVID-19. The bill aims to help small- and mid-sized businesses and not-for-profit corporations meet their financial obligations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring loan availability for working capital and to meet payroll requirements.

A3864 (Downey) authorizes notaries public to perform certain notarial acts remotely by allowing a individual to use communication technology to appear before a notarial officer as long as certain elements are met. The bill would not become effective until 90 days after the governor signs it.

A3844 (Freiman) would provide a mechanism by which businesses that suffer losses due to interruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may recover losses if they had a policy of business interruption insurance as of March 9, 2020, the date on which the governor declared a public health emergency and issued the Executive Order 103. The bill would apply to businesses covered by such a policy with less than 100 eligible employees in New Jersey, defined as a full-time employee who works 25 or more hours. At the time of publication, this bill was not posted for a vote in the Senate.

Three additional bills that aim to address lost wages and time off of work passed the Assembly and are headed for the Senate. They are:

  • A3846 (Sumter) creates the “Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program” allowing individuals to claim for lost wages due to COVID-19 and requiring employers to pay wages to workers ordered under quarantine by licensed healthcare providers.
  • A3847 (Tully) allows local government employees to receive fully paid leave, without having to use any accumulated leave time, so long as the absence is related to COVID-19. This would apply to the employee or an employee who is caring for a family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19; directed by a medical professional or government agency to self-isolate or quarantine due to a suspicion or exposure to or diagnosis with COVID-19, or undergoing a period of self-quarantine or isolation pursuant to public health assessment recommendations. This bill is still awaiting Senate action.
  • A3849 (Lopez) would prohibit an employer from terminating or refusing to reinstate an employee if, during the public health emergency and state of emergency declared by the governor in Executive Order 103, the employee requests or takes time off from work based on a written or electronically transmitted recommendation from a medical professional licensed in New Jersey that the employee take time off of work for a period of time because of COVID-19.