a. COVID-19 Update
Today Governor Murphy announced that there were 796 new positive cases and an additional 4 confirmed deaths resulting from COVID-19. To date, there have been 206,629 confirmed cases, and 14,344 confirmed deaths. The rate of transmission is at 1.19. The positivity rate as of September 28 was 2.47%.
Since our last update, Governor Murphy has not issued any COVID-19 related executive orders.
On Tuesday, the Governor added Colorado and removed Arizona and Virginia from the list of state and territories subject to the travel quarantine and advisory list. There are currently 34 states and territories subject to the travel quarantine advisory.
On Thursday, Governor Murphy joined New York Governor Cuomo to announce the launch of COVID-19 exposure notification mobile apps for their respective state. COVID Alert NJ and COVID Alert NY are free regional COVID Alert apps that notifies users of potential COVID-19 exposure. The apps will also notify users if they have been in close contact, within six feet for at least 10 minutes, with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Also on Thursday, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) announced $7.5 million from the CARES Act for three programs to assist neighborhoods and vulnerable small businesses financially impacted by the pandemic. The Main Street New Jersey (MSNJ) CoVID-19 Relief Program will provide $1.6 million in grant funds to District Management Organizations (DMO) that actively participate in MSNJ to fund eligible COVID-19 recovery activities and costs. Any DMO is eligible to participate. The Neighborhood Preservation (NPP) COVID-19 Relief Program will provide $2.6 million in grant funding to municipalities with NPP plans for eligible COVID-19 response activities. The Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit (NRTC) COVID-19 Relief Program will provide $3.1 million to organizations with NRTC neighborhood plans for eligible COVID response activities and costs.
For the week ending September 26, the New Jersey Labor Department received 27,168 new unemployment applications. The increase is primarily in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is a federal benefit under the CARES Act to assist workers who are not eligible for regular unemployment.
Contact: Mike Cerra, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x120.
b. FY ’21 State Budget Set. League Looks for Info on Additional Aid
On Wednesday, Governor Murphy signed into law the State Fiscal Year 2020-2021 (FY ’21) Appropriations Act. Chapter 97 of the Public Laws of 2020 will govern State spending for the nine month period, which began yesterday, October 1, and which will end on June 30, 2021.
We thank Governor Murphy and Legislative Leadership for working together on a difficult budget that preserves vital municipal property tax relief funding.
The act will hold combined appropriations for Energy Tax Receipts Property Tax Relief (ETR) and Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid (CMPTRA) level for the balance of the year.
It would do the same for Capital City Aid, Open Space Payments in Lieu of Taxes, and Highlands Protection Fund Aid. The enacted bill will also restore funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the State Recycling Trust Fund, the Clean Communities Trust Fund, and the Division of Local Government’s Shared Services and School Consolidation assistance grants program.
The Legislature added $10 million to the Transitional Aid program, allowing municipalities – large and small – experiencing fiscal distress to apply for a share of the over $124 million appropriated for the State’s upcoming Fiscal Year.
On Thursday, our League Officers contacted the Governor on another important funding matter.
When he unveiled his FY ’21 budget proposal to the Legislature and the people of New Jersey in August, Governor Murphy indicated that his Administration would authorize a $120 million local government emergency fund, to be administered by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). This program would be intended to defray eligible municipal public safety and public health expenses, in the 12 counties that did not receive direct federal funding through the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). This fund is also meant to support municipal investments in emergency dispatch and public health resilience. The proposal would also provide $32 million in federal funding to help those 12 counties, and municipalities therein, respond to the pandemic.
As October’s property tax payments come due, this support would help local officials cover the costs of essential services and compensate for any declining collection rates. Our Officers asked Governor Murphy when we can expect this program to begin providing relief to local governments, across the State. We are anxious to inform our members of funding availability.
We will keep you posted.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x121.
c. Plastic Ban Legislation Passed
On September 24, the State Legislature approved what is the strictest plastic ban legislation in the United States. For more information please see our recent blog post. Also, we will also be hosting a League Conference Session on the plastic bag ban so don’t forget to sign up.
Contact: Andrew LaFevre, Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x116.
d. Senate Committee Set to Hear Hospital Property Tax Subsidy Bill
Two pieces of legislation, which the League opposes and have reported on before, have been scheduled for a hearing before a Senate committee next week. A-1135/S-357 and S-624 are scheduled for consideration by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on Thursday, October 8, 2020 at 1 p.m.
These bills stem from a tax court decision which brought to light how the business model for modern hospitals does not comport with the original public policy reasons for exempting non-profit hospitals from property taxes.
While the League is supportive of a legislative solution to this issue we do not believe that A-1135/S-357 and S-624 provides a proper solution. As a threshold matter, the bill sets up an unconstitutional tax exemption. Notwithstanding the constitutional issues, A-1135/S-357 and S-624 pose other concerns as it attempts to create a Community Service Contribution (CSC) fee which would be paid by hospitals organized as non-profits in lieu of any property tax. The contemplated CSC fee would be far smaller than any property tax bill which these hospitals would otherwise be subject to, effectively serving as a subsidy to an otherwise profitable industry, paid for by all other property tax payers of host communities.
We urge our members, especially those hosting non-profit hospitals, to review A-1135/S-357 and S-624, and to reach out to your legislators and members of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee expressing how this legislation would impact you and your taxpayers.
The League will continue to advocate for municipal interests and will continue to keep our members informed as this matter continues to evolve.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., Associate General Counsel, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x137.
e. New Jersey Minimum Wage to Rise to $12 an Hour on January 1, 2021
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced that New Jersey’s hourly minimum wage will increase by $1 an hour to $12 an hour on January 1, 2021. Seasonal, small employer, and farm workers minimum wage will increase .14 cents to $10.44 an hour.
The hourly minimum wage will continue to increase by $1 each year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2024. After that, the state Constitution specifies that it continue to increase annually based on any increase in the Consumer Price Index. The minimum wage rose from $8.38 in 2016 to $8.44 in 2017 and to $8.60 at the beginning of 2018.
Amended in 2019, the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law requires the state to revise the minimum hourly wage rates annually by either the amount specified in the law, or by an amount based on any increase from the prior year in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is higher.
Municipalities that employ hourly and seasonal workers should be aware of this increase for budgeting and forecasting purposes.
Contact: Paul Penna, Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609 695-3481, x110.