Today the New Jersey Assembly passed the COVID-19 Association Immunity bill (formerly A4979 now substituted by S3584).    On June 2, 2021, the New Jersey Senate passed the bill.  We look forward to Governor Murphy quickly signing the bill into law.  Thank you to NJ-CAI’s Legislative Action Committee and all of you who continue to support passage of this important legislation.  The text of S3584 may be found here   https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/S4000/3584_I1.HTM

 

Associations must continue to function.  Board meetings must be held, and decisions must be made.

The CDC has recommended against any gatherings of ten or more people through at least the middle of May.  Therefore, Association’s must postpone community events and avoid in-person meetings. However, the Association must continue to operate, and the Board must continue to conduct the Association’ s business.

To do so, the board must continue to meet on a regular basis but should do so via teleconference, Skype, Zoom, etc.  Some larger communities with closed-circuit television can televise their remote meetings for their members.  Keep in mind that transparency remains paramount, even when “open” board meetings are being held virtually or remotely.  So, in order to maintain transparency during this difficult time, boards should make their meeting agendas available prior to open meetings.

Associations should also provide a means for its members to propose questions or comments during their meetings.  Some associations have set up separate email accounts for member questions and comments to ensure that they do not become lost among other association-related emails.  Others are having the members email management directly.  Zoom and other software applications have “chat” and “raise your hand” features that allow members to participate virtually.

At the virtual or remote board meeting, business must be conducted as usual.  Motions must be made, discussed among the board members, and voted upon.  The board should review and discuss the comments and questions submitted by members during the ‘new business’ or ‘open questions’ portion of the meeting.

Immediately following the board meeting, it is important to communicate with the members.  Instead of waiting for the meeting minutes to be prepared, finalized, and approved at the next board meeting, the board should consider immediately providing an overview of the meeting to the members.  This overview may be more in-depth than typical meeting minutes to compensate for the fact that the members could not attend in-person. Official meeting minutes should also be prepared and approved at the next open meeting.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that the association must continue to function.  Open meetings must be as transparent as possible, and communication with the members is key.

On May 13, 2020, the CDC issued a nice “Stop the Spread of Germs” poster that is easily printed on 8 ½” x 11” shipping label stickers.  For example: Avery brand #5165 which are available on-line and at stores such as Staples.

The “Stop the Spread of Germs” and other printable CDC posters are available here:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/print-resources.html?Sort=Date%3A%3Adesc

These printable CDC posters may be used in your Association’s Common Areas such as entryways, lobbies, elevators, stairways, mail rooms, trash rooms, package rooms etc. (be aware of potential surface damage caused by the stickers).  Among other things, as restrictions are relaxed, these posters will serve as reminders that the COVID-19 risk remains and that the CDC’s guidelines should still be followed.

On Wednesday, April 8, 2020 Governor Murphy announced pending Executive Orders that will become effective on Friday, April 10th.  Governor Murphy’s presentation may be viewed here: https://www.state.nj.us/governor/.  Among other things, these Executive Orders will address:

Closure of Non-Essential Construction

All non-essential construction across the state will cease, indefinitely, effective 8 p.m. Friday.

Exceptions to this shut-down include: projects at our hospitals and schools, in our transportation and utility sector, the building of affordable housing, other individual housing sites that can adhere to strict limits on the number of workers on-site at any given time, emergency repairs, and work needed to safely secure a construction site, and other limited instances.  We will provide additional information on the Governor’s Order once it is issued.

New Guidelines for Essential Retail Stores

All essential retail must indefinitely limit the number of customers in their stores to 50 percent of their approved capacity. Customers and employees must wear face coverings. Stores must provide special shopping hours for high-risk individuals, erect physical barriers between customers and cashiers and baggers where practicable, and regularly sanitize areas used by their employees.

New Guidelines for Warehouses and Manufacturing Facilities

The order will also put greater protections in place for the workers at our warehouses, and in manufacturing.

Again, we will provide additional information on the Governor’s Order once it is issued.

More detailed information may be found at: https://covid19.nj.gov/

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides relief to taxpayers affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The CARES Act is the third round of federal government aid related to COVID-19.

The bill authorizes emergency loans to distressed businesses, including air carriers, and suspends certain aviation excise taxes.

With respect to small businesses, the bill

  • establishes, and provides funding for, forgivable bridge loans; and
  • provides additional funding for grants and technical assistance.

The bill also provides funding for $1,200 tax rebates to individuals, with additional $500 payments per qualifying child. The rebate begins phasing out when incomes exceed $75,000 (or $150,000 for joint filers).

The bill establishes limits on requirements for employers to provide paid leave.

With respect to taxes, the bill

  • establishes special rules for certain tax-favored withdrawals from retirement plans;
  • delays due dates for employer payroll taxes and estimated tax payments for corporations; and
  • revises other provisions, including those related to losses, charitable deductions, and business interest.

With respect to health care, the bill

  • provides additional funding for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19;
  • limits liability for volunteer health care professionals;
  • prioritizes Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review of certain drugs;
  • allows emergency use of certain diagnostic tests that are not approved by the FDA;
  • expands health-insurance coverage for diagnostic testing and requires coverage for preventative services and vaccines;
  • revises other provisions, including those regarding the medical supply chain, the national stockpile, the health care workforce, the Healthy Start program, telehealth services, nutrition services, Medicare, and Medicaid.

With respect to education, the bill

  • temporarily suspends payments for federal student loans; and
  • otherwise revises provisions related to campus-based aid, supplemental educational-opportunity grants, federal work-study, subsidized loans, Pell grants, and foreign institutions.

The bill also authorizes the Department of the Treasury to temporarily guarantee money-market funds.

To read the full bill please click on the following link: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text

Governor Murphy issued Executive Order Number 107 this afternoon. Governor Murphy described the Order as his “Stay at Home Order”. The original Order is 13 pages long and is available on the Governor’s website. The attached copy has been modified to remove four pages of “Whereas” clauses and insert headings for convenience purposes only. These headings are not a part of Executive Order 107. As you can see from the headings, the Order addresses the following main points.
1.      Remain at home or at your place of residence.
2.      Must practice social distancing.
3.      Do not use public transport if you do not have to.
4.      No in-person gatherings.
5.      Non-essential brick & mortar retailers must close to public.
6.      Essential retail must use social distancing.
7.      Delivery and takeout are permitted.
8.      Recreational and entertainment businesses are closed.
9.      Remote work arrangements are required.
10.  On-site workers: only minimal necessary to ensure essential operations. This paragraph is most important to Associations as it allows for workers who must be physically present to perform their duties for example: certain administrative staff as well as janitorial and custodial staff.
25. Enforcement
Governor Murphy highlighted that many New Jersey residents are fortunate enough to own summer homes at the Jersey Shore. He warned against going there, however. Governor Murphy warned that these seasonal areas lack the healthcare and other infrastructure necessary to adequately handle an influx of summer residents at this time, in this crisis. Governor Murphy’s message, in short, was “Stay Home”.
Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 107 references enforcement statutes N.J.S.A. App. A:9-49 & 50 (attached) which make violation and assisting in a violation a Disorderly Persons offence subject to imprisonment for a term not to exceed 6 months or a fine not to exceed $1,000 or both in the discretion of the court.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Generally, the Act provides that covered employers must provide to all employees:[2]

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

A covered employer must provide to employees that it has employed for at least 30 days:[3]

  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Covered Employers: The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees.[4] Most employees of the federal government are covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was not amended by this Act, and are therefore not covered by the expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA. However, federal employees covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act are covered by the paid sick leave provision.

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave:

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for expanded family leave if the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.

Duration of Leave:

For reasons (1)-(4) and (6): A full-time employee is eligible for up to 80 hours of leave, and a part-time employee is eligible for the number of hours of leave that the employee works on average over a two-week period.

For reason (5): A full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave at 40 hours a week, and a part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.

Calculation of Pay:[5]

For leave reasons (1), (2), or (3): employees taking leave shall be paid at either their regular rate or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate (over a 2-week period).

For leave reasons (4) or (6): employees taking leave shall be paid at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate (over a 2-week period).

For leave reason (5): employees taking leave shall be paid at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $12,000 in the aggregate (over a 12-week period—two weeks of paid sick leave followed by up to 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave).[6]

Tax Credits: Covered employers qualify for dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under the FFCRA. Qualifying wages are those paid to an employee who takes leave under the Act for a qualifying reason, up to the appropriate per diem and aggregate payment caps. Applicable tax credits also extend to amounts paid or incurred to maintain health insurance coverage. For more information, please see the Department of the Treasury’s website.

Employer Notice: Each covered employer must post in a conspicuous place on its premises a notice of FFCRA requirements.[7]

Prohibitions: Employers may not discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who takes paid sick leave under the FFCRA and files a complaint or institutes a proceeding under or related to the FFCRA.

Penalties and Enforcement: Employers in violation of the first two weeks’ paid sick time or unlawful termination provisions of the FFCRA will be subject to the penalties and enforcement described in Sections 16 and 17 of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 29 U.S.C. 216; 217. Employers in violation of the provisions providing for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid leave to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) are subject to the enforcement provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Department will observe a temporary period of non-enforcement for the first 30 days after the Act takes effect, so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act.  For purposes of this non-enforcement position, “good faith” exists when violations are remedied and the employee is made whole as soon as practicable by the employer, the violations were not willful, and the Department receives a written commitment from the employer to comply with the Act in the future.

 


[1] Wage and Hour Division does not administer this aspect of the law, but notes that every dollar of required paid leave (plus the cost of the employer’s health insurance premiums during leave) will be 100% covered by a dollar-for-dollar refundable tax credit available to the employer. For more information, please see the Department of the Treasury’s website.

[2] Employers of Health Care Providers or Emergency Responders may elect to exclude such employees from eligibility for the leave provided under the Act.

[3] Employers of Health Care Providers or Emergency Responders may elect to exclude such employees from eligibility for the leave provided under the Act.

[4] Certain provisions may not apply to certain employers with fewer than 50 employees. See Department FFCRA regulations (expected April 2020).

[5] Paid sick time provided under this Act does not carry over from one year to the next. Employees are not entitled to reimbursement for unused leave upon termination, resignation, retirement, or other separation from employment.

[6] An employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave for the first two weeks of partial paid leave under this section.

[7] The Department has issued a model notice:

https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf

The U.S. Department of Labor has resources to help workers and employers prepare for the COVID-19 virus.  Visit their website for more information: https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus