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With the specter of more shutdowns due to increased positive COVID-19 tests and the looming expiration of coronavirus relief funds at the end of this year, the New Jersey Business Coalition (NJBC) sent a letter this week to the state’s Congressional delegation urging more financial assistance. 

The NJBC, a collection of more than 100 business and nonprofit groups in the state, wrote that without more immediate support, “New Jersey will struggle to weather the public health and economic crisis in the short term and face a much slower economic recovery in the long term.” 

The specific requests made in the letter were wide-ranging due to the variety of needs as the pandemic response enters its ninth month. 

They include: 

  • Support for legislation such as, or similar to, the SMART Act, which would allocate $500 billion to state and local governments 
  • Replenishment of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund 
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reform 
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program reform 
  • Investment in crucial infrastructure, specifically through support for the Gateway Program
  • Business Safe Harbor and Liability Protection 

Liability protection for businesses complying with state and federal health standards is of increasing importance for New Jersey employers. Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 192 mandating extensive and costly safety protocols, in addition to new enforcement measures.  

Additionally, in September, he quietly signed into law a bill that allows a presumption that certain essential employees contracted COVID-19 on the job, shifting the response costs onto New Jersey’s workers compensation system that is paid for by employers. 

NJBIA has been critical of Congress, the legislature and governor for thus far not considering liability protections for struggling businesses that could be sunk by a single, meritless lawsuit. 

“The protections we seek would not protect businesses that operate in bad faith or disregard guidance on reducing the spread of COVID-19,” the NJBC wrote. We urge you to continue to support federal liability protections so that our businesses can continue to focus on restoring our economy.” 

To read the full letter, click here. 

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