June 2020: The Focus on Re-opening
Governor Murphy has been attempting to re-open the State of New Jersey. This plan appears to be a synchronization with the worldwide effort to return to some kind of normalcy. As part of his six-phase plan, we are currently in phase 1, with a close eye toward phase 2.
These efforts are evidenced by the Governor’s daily briefings, along with the passing of Executive Orders and what we have seen throughout the community associations and multiple dwellings that our office represents. Executive Orders 147, 148 and 149 are the most recent orders.
Our breakdown of Executive Order 147 is here. It, in essence the Order states that the following are open, with restrictions: a) Archery ranges; b) Batting cages; c) Golf driving ranges; d) Horseback riding; e) Shooting ranges; and f) Tennis clubs.
The more recent Executive Order 148 states that gatherings of 25 people or more are authorized, so long as the gatherings:
- are outdoors the entire duration of the gathering,
- all attendees remain six feet apart,
- there are no contact between parties at the gatherings
- no organized or contact sports are played
- all individuals wear face coverings at all times where social distancing is difficult to maintain
- all seating is limited to individual seating
- physical items are not shared
- pre-payment or donation must be offered online or by telephone
- All contact, seating and physical sharing is restricted as above with the exception of immediate family members, caretakers, household members or romantic partners.
All gatherings allowed open by Executive Order 147 may increase gatherings to 25 people. Recreational and entertainment businesses can operate in accordance with these restrictions. Gatherings in accordance with this order may be allowed at State Parks and Forests, county and municipal parks, public and private beaches, boardwalks, lakes, and lakeshores. Gatherings of 10 or fewer indoors or not in adherence to these restrictions are permitted.
All private recreational campgrounds are permitted to reopen to the public, but shall adopt policies that include at a minimum, the following restrictions:
- Require social distancing
- Establish site-specific physical distancing between occupied fixed camping units
- Require pre-payments online or via telephone
- Install a physical barrier between visitors and employees wherever feasible
- Limit the use of equipment rented to one person at a time
- Demarcate and post signs that denote six feet spacing in all public space and communal areas
- All employees, visitors and other individuals should wear face coverings in any setting at recreational campgrounds where social distancing is difficult
- Require infection control practices such as regular hand-washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal
- Provide employees break time for hand-washing
- Provide sanitation materials to employees and visitors
- Limit occupancy in restrooms and shower facilities that remain open to avoid over-crowding
- Require frequent sanitation of high-touch areas
- Place additional restrictions on areas of the campground as necessary to limit person-to-person contact
- Immediately separate and send home workers exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19
- Promptly notify workers of any known exposure to COVID-19
- Clean and disinfect the worksite
The following areas remain closed: a. Picnic areas; b. Playgrounds; c. Pavilions; and d. Other buildings, amenities, or facilities, except for restrooms and shower facilities.
Executive Order 149 permits child-care centers and other child-care facilities are permitted to resume operations for all clients effective 6:00 a.m. on June 15, 2020.
Along with the Executive Orders, there is constant legislation being pushed to the Governor’s desk for the signature of approval. The Governor, on March 29th, vetoed 2 bills that were intended to assist people struggling amid the COVD-19 pandemic.
Murphy vetoed bill S2363/A3921. Our office previously wrote about this bill here. The bill was passed unanimously in Senate and close to unanimously in the Assembly. It allowed for a three (3)-month rent suspension for certain distressed small business tenants only. Under this bill, a “distressed small business tenant“ refers to a business that, unless adjusted by the rent suspension executive order:
- employed 50 persons or fewer on February 10, 2020;
- leases real property for non-residential purposes; and
- as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic, does not have monthly revenue that exceeds eighty percent (80%) of the tenant’s reasonable expectations of monthly revenue during the same season prior to the COVID‑19 pandemic.
The bill allowed these distressed small business commercial tenant to repay the amounts over six-to-nine (6‑9) months. This bill makes it a violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act for tenants to misrepresent their financial situation.
Governor Murphy stated, in vetoing the bill that he was concerned about the impact emergency rent suspension would have on the state's non-residential property owners "who are, in many cases, themselves small businesses." (Davis, Tom) Gov. Phil Murphy Vetoes 2 NJ Coronavirus Bills, Signs Tax Bill May 29, 2020 (Last visited May 31, 2020). https://patch.com/new-jersey/chatham/s/h4ov8/gov-phil-murphy-vetoes-2-nj-coronavirus-bills-signs-tax-bill?utm_source=nearby-news&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alert.
Governor Murphy also vetoed the bill S2351/A3924, that affords protection to certain emergency medical responders. Governor Murphy explained that "[w]hile this bill would support the staffing levels of emergency medical responders, it would do so at the expense of law enforcement and fire departments." He also stated "I am particularly concerned about how this bill could exacerbate staffing shortages that may result if New Jersey is hit by a second wave of the virus in the fall or winter." Lastly, he expressed "[m]oreover, because the bill is not limited to the COVID-19 emergency, I am concerned about the unintended consequences it could have on the state's ability to effectively respond to the unique challenges and circumstances presented by future public health emergencies and states of emergency."
In each case, the Governor thanked and encouraged legislators making these bills, expressing that his concerns related to specific issues of the bills, not the general concept of assisting people in need at this time.
Governor Murphy and and Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver have announced the institution of the Short-Term Rental Assistance Program. The program will provide $100 million to assist the low- to moderate- income tenants. The $100 million dollars is funded by State and federal funds. The assistance program also targets very low income households, which have 30% of the area median income. Twenty percent (20%) of the $100 million dollar fund will be directed to assist these very low income households. Tenants of low- or moderate- income status will receive 3 months of temporary rental assistance with a possible renewal of assistance for another 3 months, while very low-income tenants will receive 12 months of assistance. Applicants must:
- Be a resident of New Jersey;
- Have a current income that is at or below 80 percent of Area Median Income
- Have been current in rent payments as of March 1, 2020
- Show that income was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic beginning on March 9th when the public emergency was declared. Tenants can show this by documenting:
- A layoff
- Reduced work hours
- Unpaid leave to take care of children due to school and daycare closures
- Need to self-quarantine for 14 days resulted in a loss of income
What to Expect in June
The Governor confirmed today that Phase 2 of reopening starts June 15th and that Salons and Barber Shops can serve customer on June 22nd so long as hospitalizations continue to decline. The Governor also advised that he will inform the public on how gyms and health clubs can safely re-open, although a time period has not been provided.
We expect that further efforts to re-open will be attempted this coming week. We are all waiting to hear further guidance on pools, amenity areas, fitness centers and more. Offices for businesses making efforts to re-open. It is clear from the Executive Orders that these re-opening efforts will be slow, with restrictions, but at least this is a step in the direction of normalcy. We look forward to providing you with further updates. Stay tuned!
The information in this Client Alert is provided solely for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice on any specific matter and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based upon particular circumstances. Each legal matter is unique, and prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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