New Jersey Announces Grants for Small Businesses and Expands Employee Benefits Programs for COVID-19-Related Reasons

COVID-19 Update

Date: March 31, 2020

Key Notes:

  • Grants of up to $5,000 available to businesses with 1-10 employees starting March 30, 2020
  • New Jersey makes sick leave, family leave, and disability and family benefits available for COVID-19-related reasons

New Jersey Economic Development Authority

On March 26, 2020, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (“NJEDA”) launched its Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program to assist small and medium businesses and non-profits maintain their workforces during the ongoing COVID-19 containment period.

Grants of up to $5,000 will be available for use towards payroll or working capital support. The grants cannot be used for capital expenses such as construction. To qualify, businesses must, among other requirements:

  • Have 1-10 full-time equivalent employees;
  • Be classified as a retail, accommodation and food services, other services, or arts, entertainment and recreation business per NAICS;
  • Be registered to do business in New Jersey;
  • Certify good tax standing with the state and be in good standing with all decisions of the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development;
  • Be negatively impacted by COVID-19;
  • Certify that it will make best efforts to not furlough or layoff individuals until six months after the end of the declared emergency; and
  • Have a financial need that cannot be overcome without the grant money.

Some businesses are excluded, such as gambling establishments and adult stores. The NJEDA will make $5 million in grants available on a first-come, first-serve basis, with $3 million reserved for businesses with fewer than 5 full-time equivalent employees.

Applications are available as of March 30, 2020 at https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

New Jersey’s Sick Leave, Family Leave Act, and Temporary Disability Insurance Law

On March 25, 2020, amendments to New Jersey’s Sick Leave, Family Leave Act, and Temporary Disability Insurance Law became effective immediately upon signature by Governor Phil Murphy. The unanimously-passed amendments are designed to assist New Jersey employees impacted by COVID-19.

Expanded Bases for Use of New Jersey’s 2018 Sick Leave Law, N.J. Stat. §§ 34:11D-1, et seq.

In addition to the existing bases for sick leave, employees may now use earned sick leave if unable to work because of any of the following:

  • Closure of the employee’s workplace, or the school or daycare of the employee’s child, because of COVID-19.
  • A determination by a health care provider or public health authority that the employee’s presence in the community, or the presence of a family member of the employee, would jeopardize the health of others.
  • The employee is undergoing isolation or quarantine, or caring for a family member in quarantine, due to suspected exposure to COVID-19.

The other provisions of the law remain unchanged, including advance notice by the employee of up to 7 calendar days if the need for leave is foreseeable, or in the case of unforeseeable need, as soon as practicable. Employees can use up to 40 hours of sick leave per year, which can be front-loaded or accrued at a minimum of 1 hour per 30 hours worked.

Employers can satisfy New Jersey’s Sick Leave Law with a PTO or vacation policy that accrues paid leave at the same or greater rate. In such cases, employees should now be permitted to use accrued PTO or vacation for any of the new reasons above.

Expanded Bases for Use of Leave Under New Jersey’s Family Leave Act, N.J. Stat. §§ 34:11B-1, et seq.

In addition to the existing bases for family leave, employees may now use any portion of their 12 weeks of leave under New Jersey’s Family Leave Act to care for a family member who meets any of the following:

  • Has an illness caused by COVID-19.
  • Has a known or suspected exposure to COVID-19.
  • Requires in-home care or treatment because of efforts to prevent the spread COVID-19 based on a determination by a healthcare provider or public health authority that the family member’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others, or because of an order of isolation or quarantine based on suspected exposure to COVID-19.

The amendments make an identical change to the Family Leave Insurance provisions of the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law, meaning that if an employee takes family leave for any of the above reasons, he or she may be able to receive pay for up to 6 of the 12 weeks of leave through the employer’s benefits plan.

The amendments also prohibit employers from denying leave to highly-compensated individuals or to any employees even if the leave would cause grievous economic injury, if the leave is taken to care for a family member isolated or quarantined due to COVID-19, or due to the closure of the family member’s place of care due to COVID-19.

The Family Leave Act applies to employers with 30 or more employees, and employees must still meet eligibility requirements including employment for at last 12 months. While leave under the Family Leave Act is job-protected, if the employee’s position is eliminated due to a reduction in force or layoff made while on leave, the employee is not entitled to reinstatement. However, the employee retains any rights under any applicable layoff and recall systems as if the employee had not taken leave.

Expanded Bases for Temporary Disability Benefits, N.J. Stat. §§ 43:21-25, et seq.

In addition to the existing bases for disability benefits, employees may now claim temporary disability insurance benefits for any of the following:

  • The employee’s illness caused by COVID-19.
  • The employee’s known or suspected exposure to COVID-19.
  • The employee’s in-home care or treatment, or the in-home care or treatment of the employee’s family member, because of efforts to prevent the spread COVID-19 based on a determination by a healthcare provider or public health authority that their presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others, or because of an order of isolation or quarantine based on suspected exposure to COVID-19 

Further, the amendments eliminate the 7-day waiting period for disability benefits if claimed for any of the above reasons.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Thompson Hine is assisting its clients with a wide variety of issues pertaining to COVID-19 impacts on environmental laws and is ready to help others in need of guidance. For more information, please contact:

Rebecca Brazzano
212.908.3941
Rebecca.Brazzano@thompsonhine.com

Sara Hamilton
404.407.3685
Sara.Hamilton@ThompsonHine.com

or any member of our Labor & Employment practice group.

Additional Resources

We have assembled a firmwide multidisciplinary task force to address clients’ business and legal concerns and needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see our COVID-19 Task Force page for additional information and resources.

This advisory bulletin may be reproduced, in whole or in part, with the prior permission of Thompson Hine LLP and acknowledgment of its source and copyright. This publication is intended to inform clients about legal matters of current interest. It is not intended as legal advice. Readers should not act upon the information contained in it without professional counsel.

This document may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions.

© 2020 THOMPSON HINE LLP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.