By Rachel Feingold
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a bill package consisting of over a dozen bipartisan bills in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. The new laws specifically aim to help employees who have missed work or lost wages in the wake of the ordered closures of movie theaters, casinos, bars, barber shops, nail and beauty salons and tattoo parlors. These new laws also assist New Jersey schools, businesses and local governments that are currently facing the medical and financial impact of the coronavirus. 

One of these new laws prohibits an employer from terminating or refusing to reinstate an employee, who requests, or takes time off from work, because they have or likely have been infected with Coronavirus.

A second of these new laws creates a “Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program” which aims to compensate individuals and employers who have been impacted by the coronavirus.  The “Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program” compensates those individuals who lost income because they either tested positive for coronavirus, or needed to care for a sick relative or child whose school or daycare closed due to the health crisis.   The law also allows individuals to collect for “such other purposes as determined by the commissioner.”  The law reimburses individuals for actual lost wages in the amount equivalent to the individual’s average weekly rate of compensation from the past calendar year. 

Twenty million dollars will be appropriated to this “Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program.” Ten million dollars, half of the fund, will be used to compensate individuals who lost wages.  The other ten million dollars will be used to assist employers who must pay their employees who have been forced under quarantine by a licensed healthcare practitioner.

In order to claim benefits for actual lost wages an individual must file an application with the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, as well as provide supporting documentation of lost wages and a certification that the individual does not have fully  paid leave available for the individual’s absence.  An application for relief shall be filed no later than three months after the termination of a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor of New Jersey or the President of the United States, whichever is later.