Good afternoon! My name is Christopher Emigholz, and I am the Vice President of Government Affairs for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) covering economic development, tax and budget issues.
On behalf of our member companies that provide 1 million jobs in our State and make NJBIA the largest statewide business association in the nation, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you regarding the COVID-19 bills up in your committee today impacting New Jersey businesses. This unprecedented public health crisis has devastated many small businesses and the jobs they create throughout New Jersey, and we support S-2371 and S-2387 to help those businesses. We want to support S-2350 and are seeking amendments to better focus that bill on helping our state budget without burdening businesses.
Support S-2371 (Gopal/O’Scanlon) – NJBIA supports this bill as it will assist many of the small hospitality businesses that were forced to close or scale back their operations because of Governor Murphy’s executive orders shutting down businesses in response to the public health crisis. Zero-interest loans will help many of these businesses stay afloat right now and be in a better position to more rapidly recover when Governor Murphy starts to re-open the economy.
NJBIA would suggest expanding S-2371 in three ways:
- It would be helpful to cover more small businesses by increasing the relatively low $1.5 million annual revenue threshold as the recent EDA loan program included small businesses up to $5 million in annual
- With the catastrophic economic conditions because of COVID-19, a grant program may be necessary in addition to the bill’s current loan program.
- Clarifying that the Governor can use the funding available under the CARES Act and can increase the $5 million through that Federal funding would be helpful to more easily expand this program without burdening our already overwhelmed state budget.
Support S-2387 (Sarlo/Cryan) – NJBIA supports this bill as it will provide extra time to research property values and file their appeals, and it seems consistent with the recent tax deadline extension law you passed and what the Tax Court has been saying. It would be helpful to clarify that appeals can be still made to the Tax Court, but not the counties, in the counties with the county-wide assessment programs.
Seeking Amendments on S-2350 (Sweeney/Pou) – NJBIA wants to supports this bill but is seeking amendments. We appreciate the pursuit of state budget savings, but there is no need to complicate this bill with private sector labor mandates that would hurt small business. NJBIA would support this furlough bill as one of the only initiatives made public thus far to cut spending in the New Jersey budget, but we have some concerns:
- NBIA opposes the removal of the small business family leave protections for employers with less than 30 employees in sections 3, 12, 13 and 14. The existing leave laws reasonably did not apply the requirement to reinstate someone to the same position after returning from leave to all businesses. It is not possible in very small businesses with only a few employees to avoid making adjustments to their small workforce during and after an employee is on family leave, yet this bill, having nothing to do with the good furlough idea, would make that new leave requirement.
- If for some reason, these leave expansions have to remain in the bill, NJBIA requests that they be temporary for employees on leave just during this declared public health emergency.
- NJBIA also understands the UI expansions in the bill, but we are concerned that a once healthy UI fund will be far from solvency after this crisis passes. Making these UI expansions permanent will make it slower to get a healthy UI system again. Members of this SBA committee deserve a lot of the credit for the health of the UI system before COVID-19, and it would be unfortunate that these UI expansions that have nothing to do with this furlough bill, may slow down that UI recovery.
- To support the chances of UI returning to solvency sooner, rather than later after this crisis, could the UI expansions (20–40% shift for non-UI earnings in Section 4 and reducing hours-worked eligibility in sections 5 and 7) only be allowed during this declared public health emergency?
Beyond these three bills, NJBIA hopes to see you continue to advance legislation from the New Jersey Business Coalition’s recommendations submitted to the Legislature on April 1. Whether they are bills using the Federal funding that New Jersey was given through the CARES Act or loosening some of the onerous rules and regulations to give small businesses some flexibility as they struggle to stay open and recover, businesses need your help.
Thank you for moving some pro-business bills today, and we look forward to continuing to work with you all to help all New Jersey businesses struggling because of this pandemic.