The 23 bills and two resolutions will be voted on this Monday by both the Assembly and Senate via remote voting sessions.
Some of the most notable would extend the state’s tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 and the state budget from June 30 to Sept. 30, expand state unemployment, and create new tax credits and tax payment deferrals for companies to keep their workers on the payroll.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were 51,027 total COVID-19 cases, 1,700 fatalities, 7,363 hospitalizations and 1,523 patients in intensive care.
Over the past month, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the closure of a myriad of “non-essential” retail and business activities, grinding commerce to a halt and leading to soaring joblessness, all part of an effort to reduce in-person contact that could give the virus the opportunity to spread to new hosts.
Senate Bill 2338, known as the “COVID-19 Fiscal Mitigation Act,” pushes back the filing date from April 15 to July 15 for the state income and corporate business tax, meaning Murphy would have two days to sign the bill if lawmakers send it to him on Monday.
The bill extends by six months the interest that taxpayers receive on overpayments, and gives taxpayers an extra 90 days after the state of emergency ends for them to assess their taxes.
S2338 requires Murphy to present a revised budget address by Aug. 25, which would include estimates on how much money the state has through Oct. 1. Lawmakers will have to approve stopgap spending to last through Sept. 30.
His prior budget, unveiled on Feb. 25, calls for $40.9 billion in spending supported by roughly $42 billion in tax revenue, but the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated tax revenue across the board for the state.
The legislation gives the state treasurer until May 15 to present lawmakers with a financial analysis that will look at how much money the state made through July 1, 2019, any state or federal spending through Sept. 30, and an assessment of how Murphy’s 2021 budget could be affected by the current recession.
Another measure, Senate Bill 2339, requires businesses of any size to offer employees their position back after taking family leave, paid or unpaid. Businesses with less than 30 employees are exempt from this provision.
S2339 also reduces how much of a cut employees who are laid off would see in their weekly benefit and makes it easier for workers to qualify for a greater amount of benefits based on their weekly pay.
Workers can apply for unemployment if they were notified about a layoff effective in 90 days, and receive the benefits effective the day they are laid off, under the bill.
Another measure, Senate Bill 2353, removes the severance requirements – such as the 90-day notice – for companies that have to trigger a layoff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession.
Senate Bill 2330 would let a person who’s experienced financial pain as a result of COVID-19 apply to the major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion, Experian and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – for any economic hardship during the pandemic to not be factored into their credit score.
The bill, formally called the COVID-19 Financial Security for Consumers Act, also prohibits creditors and debt collectors from going after anyone during the pandemic for funds they might owe. And, it requires health insurance carriers to cover treatment for COVID-19.
It gives patients six months after their first medical bill is sent out before health care offices and debt collectors can take legal action to go after them for payment, and a year before that debt shows up on their credit report.
Small business incentives
Two other proposals are aimed at helping smaller-sized businesses stay afloat in the midst of the pandemic and economic slump—both would be limited to companies in the state with up to 10 employees.
Senate Bill 2347 lets those businesses apply with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority for tax deferrals, provided in return they make a best effort to not lay off or furlough any of their workers. The EDA would consider applications like any other incentive program, and it would regulate the program and draw out incentive agreements outlining how those taxes would be repaid.
Another incentive program proposed under Senate Bill 2348, creates tax credits of up to $1,000 for each worker kept on the payroll. The proposal is modeled after the federal version, known as the Employee Retention Credit within the CARES Act, and would be capped at 20 percent of the federal tax credit, which goes up to $5,000.
Senate Bill 3840 would require landlords who’ve received mortgage relief under the public health emergency to pass that onto their tenants as rent relief – something that Murphy has called for but has not issued any legal mandates regarding.
While there have been calls from Murphy to order rent relief, the governor has not yet taken that route, arguing that enforcement is trickier than in the mortgage grace period.
Senate Bill 2332 would, however, create a $100 million emergency rental assistance program within the Department of Community Affairs for tenants who are at least 30 days behind on their payments and have suffered a financial hardship because of the COVID-19 outbreak.