During this pandemic we are demanding an equitable response that supports all of God’s beloved children. A response that implements legislative policies that not only lift our families in the time of crisis but that extends beyond this current moment.
As such on March 24, 2020, Faith in New Jersey signed onto a letter generated by the Time to Care Coalition addressed to Governor Murphy, NJ Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner, Robert Asaro-Angelo,, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.
The letter provided them with the following eight guiding principles to help craft legislative solutions that to provide income support for New Jersey’s working families facing financial difficulties during and after the COVID19 crisis.
- “Provide 100 percent income support (wage replacement) for all low and moderate income New Jersey workers who are currently excluded from New Jersey’s paid leave and unemployment programs (UI, TDI, FLI). This “emergency” fund should include self-employed, contract and freelance workers, undocumented immigrant workers, gig workers, and those who don’t qualify for unemployment under today’s eligibility standards because they have not met the minimum earnings requirements. Doing so is imperative to prevent excluded and marginalized workers from facing further inequities.
- Reform the state’s regular Unemployment Insurance program by also providing 100 percent income support for low and moderate income workers during this crisis, waiving requirements that workers must wait to be out of work 7 days to apply, be actively searching for work, expand benefits to beyond 26 weeks for workers currently receiving benefits, not charging employers for state UI taxes for claims related to the outbreak, expand the definition of good cause to quit a job to include rejecting any assignment that violates health and safety standards or caregiving responsibilities (particularly as it relates to coronavirus), and waive the earning requirement to qualify for UI benefits. Additionally, expedite NJ LWD misclassification analysis and continue to proactively reach out to misclassified workers about their ability to access benefits.
- Continue to seek additional federal funding and implement new revenue sources to support all New Jersey’s paid leave and unemployment programs. We will unlikely be able to meet the public and programs’ funding needs solely through anticipated federal funds. Because the state has an inadequate surplus and rainy day fund from which to redirect more resources to the COVID response, the state must make targeted changes to the tax code in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget to raise the necessary revenue for immediate needs. We recommend reversing ill-advised tax cuts, extending the corporate tax surcharge, closing corporate tax loopholes, and ensuring the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share.
- Expand the ESSD law to require all employers to immediately provide an additional 15 Earned Sick Days during public health crises — to facilitate workers quick access to paid time off and to reduce the time workers will have to wait for longer term income support from the above named programs. Small employers in need should receive federal and/or state financial support to provide these additional days. Expanding our state law would ensure there are no carve-outs for companies with more than 500 employees as currently provided in the federal COVID19 response law, as doing so would exclude 54% of the workforce. Additionally, allow for self-certification in lieu of medical documentation.
- This pandemic has demonstrated the clear need for a basic number of paid sick days regardless of a declared public health emergency or we also recommend increasing the required number of paid sick days in the ESSD law from 5 to 7. Additionally, remove the current worker carve outs, particularly for per-diem health care workers, eliminate the 120 day waiting period, and remove employers ability to require a doctor’s note after 3 days’ consecutive absence.
- Provide job protection for all who are out of work due to this pandemic. Because social distancing, curfews, and school closures are necessary to flatten the curve and because we are all in this together, employers must guarantee job protection to all workers on their payroll prior to their closure.
- We ask that the Governor’s office and State Legislature reject regressive and broad base tax cuts like payroll tax cuts. This is not the time to reduce precious revenue and weaken the state’s ability to target the resources where the need is greatest. In fact, a payroll tax cut would disproportionately benefit those still working, who are more likely doing so from home and who are more likely to be higher earning, salaried workers. Similarly, a sales tax holiday would offer a lopsided benefit to wealthy households since they are in a better financial position to take advantage of one by making big-ticket purchases. A sales tax holiday also goes against the social distancing imperative.
- Allocate the New Jersey Department of Labor the flexibility and additional new resources and staffing it needs to meet the enormous challenge of implementing and enforcing New Jersey’s paid leave laws and servicing FLI, TDI and UI programs to meet workers’ income security needs on a timely basis.”