New Jersey Businesses — Get Ready

New Jersey Businesses — Get Ready

By Christina Reger and Anastasia Baranowski

New Jersians are eager to return to work as the state of New Jersey begins to plan its move towards normalcy in this COVID-19 world. Since New Jersey has suffered one of the highest number of coronavirus cases and related deaths, it’s not surprising that there are a number of rules and restrictions for the state to reopen and its citizens to return to work.

 On May 13, 2020, New Jersey Gov, Phil Murphy issued Executive Order No. 142 and began the process of reopening the state. The Order addressed two primary areas (1) construction — with a host of limitations and requirements to open — which you can read about here, and (2) non-essential retail operations. The limitations on retail are not quite as stringent because they are not exactly permitted to open — curbside only. Internal retail operations are limited to employees who are supporting the curbside pick-up.

In earlier communications, Governor Murphy relayed his reopening plan where he outlined six key principles and benchmarks to guide the process for restoring New Jersey’s economic health by ensuring public health. Step one requires a 14-day trend of reductions in new COVID-19 cases. Step two requires an expansion in testing capacity. Step three seeks to implement a robust contact tracing program, where trained personnel will identify and follow-up with individuals who may have come into contact with positive COVID-19 cases. Step four is a plan to set up safe locations for individuals who test positive can be quarantined and provided necessary support. Step five calls for a, “responsible economic restart,” which is where a “strategic” return to work will begin, with social distancing measures in place. Step six is a sort of, post-pandemic plan, where the governor plans to rebuild and create plans for future pandemic response.

 The return to work plan, mentioned in step five, is just as vague and unclear as it sounds. There is currently not much of a detailed plan. This is likely in part due to Murphy’s recent decision to extend NJ’s lockdown another 30 days. In reference to Murphy’s 6-point plan, and his decision to extend the lockdown, Murphy stated: “That’s the order in which we must proceed,” Murphy said. “It means that before we reopen non-essential stores and businesses, before we can reopen our parks or before we allow in-person dining in our restaurants — among any host of other activities — people need to know, first and foremost, that their health will be safeguarded from COVID-19.”

Notwithstanding these limitations it is important for New Jersey businesses to begin preparing to reopen. Like their neighbors in Pennsylvania, it seems likely that NJ Businesses will be required to have safety plans and policies in place before they reboot their business. Employers should turn to their trusted advisors – topping the list should be their accountant and employment attorney. This team of professionals can ensure that each business owner is complying with the morass of new legislation and acting in good faith.  

We have also created The Return to Work Toolkit which contains an employer checklist, employee health assessment, Employee Recall Procedure and letter which provides the necessary documentation for an employer to claim the PPP exemption, plus all of the policies and procedures necessary to implement the Families First Coronavirus Act and claim the tax credit. Diligent planning is crucial to a successful restart.

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