I. State Issues
a. COVID-19 Update
This week’s COVID-19 news from Trenton centered on the expansion of the vaccine roll-out to include individuals over the age of 65 and 16-64 with certain medical conditions. The Governor issued an Executive Order addressing changes to the 2020-21 school year adapting to the challenges posed by COVID-19. Below is more in-depth information on the vaccine, Executive Order, unemployment, and data.
For January 15, 2020:
- 5,490 new positive cases for a total of 550,299 confirmed cases
- 67 new confirmed deaths for a total of 18,229 confirmed deaths
- The rate of transmission is at 1.11
- 9.63% positivity rate as of January 11
- 564 cases linked to 111 school outbreaks since August
- 310,595 vaccine doses have been administered, including 273,335 first doses and 37,079 second doses. 54% have been Moderna and 46% Pfizer.
Earlier in the week, the Governor announced that effective January 14, individuals older than 65 and individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 with medical conditions defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for persons 16 years of age and older under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization and the Moderna vaccine is recommended for individuals 18 years and older. Not all sites administer both vaccines, so it is important the individuals check with their vaccination site before scheduling a visit.
Individuals who are pregnant and those in an immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant are also eligible but should follow CDC guidance and first discuss vaccination with their medical provider before receiving the vaccine. In addition, smoking is included as a risk factor on the CDC list of high risk conditions and individuals 16-64 with a smoking addiction are now eligible for the vaccine.
Individuals who are providing paid or unpaid health care services, like essential caregivers (i.e. an adult child caring for their elderly parent with severe neurological disorder in their home instead of a nursing facility) are currently eligible for the vaccine as health care workers.
Vaccinations are also available to individuals who live, work, or are being educated in New Jersey. Some county-operated sites may restrict vaccination at their locations to those who work, live, or are being educated in their county. However, the State is encouraging all vaccination sites to make appointments available to all eligible individuals.
Residents of group homes and long-term care facilities are currently eligible for a vaccine and permitted to schedule an appointment at an open vaccine location. The vaccination of individuals in high-risk, congregate care settings such as nursing homes, assisted living residences, IDD group homes, etc. is expected to take weeks. Doses for these settings have already been reserved in the State’s allocation. These efforts are primarily driven by the Federal Pharmacy Partnership LTC program (Walgreens/CVS) that is prioritizing vaccination in skilled nursing facilities/nursing homes and assisted living residences first. Those in other congregate care settings are a priority but may not have been contacted by the pharmacy program or Department of Health on their status yet.
The state continues to encourage the general public to pre-register for eligibility for the vaccine online. Individuals will be permitted to input their personal, contact, health insurance, and demographic information. Those who are immediately eligible based on screening questions will be able to schedule an appointment. A consumer call center will be activated shortly and will assist individuals without internet access in scheduling appointments, and will assist in answering general inquiries and questions. Please note that during peak times, there may be capacity issues that result in a message to try later. We ask that you share this information with your community.
Since our last update, Governor Murphy has issued the following COVID-19 related Executive Order:
Executive Order 214, which waives graduation assessment requirement for high school diplomas, removes student growth objectives from teacher evaluations, and extends the service time limitations for those in the process of becoming a certified teachers for the 2020-21 school year.
The Department of Labor announced for the week ending January 9 the initial weekly unemployment claims total 21,833, a 4% increase from the prior week. Under the expanded CARES Act, 460,000 claimants currently collecting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), plus 80,000 claimants collecting Extended Benefits (EB), are eligible for an 11-week extension, and are seeing no interruption in benefits. There was a delay in running the new Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program last week but the Department of Labor hopes to process the newly available federal $300 supplemental unemployment benefit over the weekend.
Contact: Lori Buckelew, Assistant Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x112.
b. League Urges Legislature to Act in Response to Federal Court Decision
On December 30, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey issued a ruling in Rosedale and Rosehill Cemetery Association v. Twp. of Readington, in which the court invalidated the New Jersey Cemetery Act (N.J.S.A. 45:27-25, et seq), finding the Act violated principles of the United States Constitution. The Act, among other things, granted a municipality the power to consent to the establishment or enlargement of cemeteries within its borders.
The court stayed its decision for 30 days to allow the New Jersey Legislature time to act to amend the Act to be in line with the decision. The League is actively making efforts to alert legislative leaders of this issue and have urged them to adopt corrective legislation in accordance with the federal court’s decision that ensures this important municipal control is restored. We have also requested that the Attorney General’s office seek additional time from the court, to provide the Legislature with adequate time to act.
For more information please see the League recent blog post.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., Associate General Counsel, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x137.
c. Local Finance Notice Issued on Municipal Budget Appropriations for Volunteer Fire Companies and Fire Districts
On Monday, January 11, the Division of Local Government Services released Local Finance Notice 2021-02, which announced the increase on the annual cap on funds a municipality may appropriate for use on its volunteer fire companies and boards of fire commissioners. For CY 2021/SFY2022 and CY 2022/SFY2023 the cost of living adjustment (COLA) is 1%. Therefore, the maximum annual contribution that is permitted is $156, 604.
As a reminder, any municipality with more than three or more fire companies or boards may appropriate an additional $50,000 annually for each fire company or board.
We suggest you review this Local Finance Notice with your Administrator and Chief Financial Officer.
Contact: Andrew LaFevre, Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x116.
d. DLGS Announces Length of Service Awards Program CPI Annual Adjustment
In Local Finance Notice 2021-01, the Division of Local Government Services announced a Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAPs) award increase and the annual cost of living adjustment to the maximum award amounts.
The increase in calendar year 2020 (for use in CY 2021) is 0.8% for municipal (November) and 2.6% for fire district (February) LOSAPs.
Adjustments to the maximum LOSAP contribution are calculated annually based on changes in the Consumer Price Index. The amount of the increase cannot exceed the amount calculated by multiplying the current contribution by the inflation percentage.
Contact: Paul Penna, Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609 695-3481, x110.