Gov. Phil Murphy Vetoes 5 NJ Coronavirus Bills

Tom Davis

NEW JERSEY – Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed five bills on Monday that were supposed to address the coronavirus outbreak's impact on New Jersey.

The bills deal with providing rental assistance to families hit hard by unemployment amid the coronavirus crisis, as well as small businesses that weren't been able to draw revenue – such as construction and the hospitality industry – while the economy was shut down.

Here is what the bills would have done, and why Murphy vetoed them:

Rental assistance

Murphy vetoed a bill that would establish the “2020 New Jersey Emergency Rental Assistance Program” in order to help residential tenants who have been financially impacted by the
COVID-19 crisis meet their rental payment obligations.

The bill would appropriate $100 million to provide rental assistance to tenants across the state, directing the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs to devise a formula to
distribute funding based, in part, on the fair market rents in each county.

Murphy acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused "very sudden and severe
economic hardship for families throughout the country and here in New Jersey."

"While I share the sponsors’ concern for the housing security of our state’s tenants, I am concerned that funding for the $100 million program will fall largely, if not exclusively, on the
state," he said.

Murphy said his administration continues to fight for additional federal assistance to support the needs of New Jersey residents but "there are steps that our state must take on its own to secure our budgetary and cash flow position so that we can provide relief to those hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis."

Help for hospitality industry, small businesses

Murphy vetoed a bill that would establish the “New Jersey Hospitality Small Business Emergency Loan Program” and would appropriate $100 million to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to provide financial support to small businesses.

The money would help make up for business operation interruptions caused by COVID-19. Under the loan program, the EDA would be required to provide loans to small hospitality industry-related businesses to cover immediate, unavoidable expenses, other than payroll costs, throughout the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Murphy acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic "is having a devastating impact on small
businesses throughout the country and here in New Jersey."

"On a business level, the impacts of the crisis have reached every industry in the world, but the pandemic’s impacts on the small businesses that drive the state’s hospitality industry have been particularly acute," he said. "The bars, restaurants, and hotels that provide outstanding food, drink, accommodations, entertainment, and hospitality and our beach towns, colonial-era villages, and nature preserves, and our main streets, country roads, and urban centers, are a critically important component of the state’s economy."

However, Murphy said, the proposed program "would duplicate the already existing efforts of the EDA, initiated after my colleagues in the Legislature authorized the EDA to provide grants during periods of emergency.

"This bill would require the EDA to establish an additional program exclusively for small hospitality industry-related businesses that is nearly identical to other programs for which these businesses already qualify," he said.

Extending environmental approvals during coronavirus outbreak

Murphy vetoed a bill that would extend environmental permits and other governmental approvals for the duration of a newly-created “COVID-19 extension period.” The bill was created in response to the suspension of non-essential construction projects.

Murphy said this period could go on for a year a longer. The bill would define the “COVID-19 extension period” to cover the period beginning March 9 and continuing for the duration of the public health emergency, or the state of emergency, or both, declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While I strongly support the bill’s goal of providing businesses impacted by the pandemic with the flexibility and tools they need to support the state’s economic development and recovery, I am concerned that the length of the extension period contemplated in the bill could inadvertently undermine this worthy objective," Murphy said.

Work First New Jersey benefits

Murphy vetoed a bill would make a variety of changes to the criteria for eligibility to participate in the Work First New Jersey program.

Among other things, the bill would revise work experience requirements and broaden eligibility requirements for immigrants and students enrolled in institutions of higher education. In addition, the bill would annually increase the monthly temporary assistance for needy families .

Murphy said Work First New Jersey benefits provide a critical lifeline to vulnerable populations in New Jersey, enabling individuals and families to exit poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of New Jerseyans at risk of entering poverty and exacerbated the financial struggles of those already in crisis, he said

While he supports many of the bill’s worthy initiatives, Murphy said he's unable to approve the bill in its present form because it would trigger an "indeterminate, unbudgeted" cost.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profoundly negative impact on the state’s economy and financial condition," he said. "The hard reality is that we will continue to face unprecedented budgetary challenges in the coming months and beyond."

Here are the bills that were vetoed:

  • S-2329/A-3905 (Ruiz, Vitale/Timberlake, Vainieri Huttle, Quijano) - Revises requirements for cash assistance benefits under Work First New Jersey program; appropriates $17 million. Copy of Statement
  • A-3919/SCS for SCS for S-2346 (Calabrese, Spearman, Murphy/Sarlo, Sweeney, Singleton, A.M. Bucco) - Extends certain permits, approvals, and deadlines during COVID-19 emergency. Copy of Statement
  • A-4132/S-2350 (Taliaferro, Downey/Sweeney, Pou, Oroho) - Concerns benefits provided to workers. Copy of Statement
  • S-2332/A-3956 (Stack, Sweeney, Corrado, Ruiz/Chaparro, Mukherji, Wimberly) - Establishes "2020 New Jersey Emergency Rental Assistance Program"; appropriates $100 million. Copy of Statement
  • A-3959/S-2371 (Mukherji, Vainieri Huttle, Reynolds-Jackson/Gopal, O'Scanlon) - Establishes NJ Hospitality Emergency Loan Program in EDA to provide no-interest loans to qualified small hospitality businesses; makes $100 million appropriation to EDA from federal funds for qualified small hospitality business assistance. Copy of Statement

This article originally appeared on the Toms River Patch