TRENTON, N.J. – As the economic fallout from a state emergency over the coronavirus outbreak could last much longer than the health consequences, Assemblyman Brian Bergen wants lawmakers to act now to help families maintain their income and keep the state’s businesses afloat.
“If we don’t help businesses stay afloat, job losses will proliferate,” said Bergen (R-Morris). “The problem now facing many employers, particularly smaller ones, is that they do not have the cash flows to keep sending out paychecks.”
The online system for filing claims crashed last week, as a record 15,000 people flooded it with applications on March 16. The labor department normally handles 1,500 to 2,300 applications on a given day.
Before the coronavirus hit, first-time unemployment claims were near a half-century low. Just a little over a week ago, the state Labor Department reported that 52,400 new jobs were added in 2019.
He called on legislators to join in support of helping residents during this crisis.
“We need to do everything in our power to make sure New Jerseyans remain whole. It is our duty,” continued Bergen. "This is a time for action not talk. Our legislature has the power to provide relief and we should be doing so immediately, with an emergency session if necessary."
Bergen is proposing allowing businesses to keep their first quarter sales tax payments that are not constitutionally dedicated to property tax relief, waive all fees and interest on late tax filings through July 31, reduce interest rates on existing business loan programs, and extending licensing deadlines to July 31 to provide immediate relief.
To help business long-term, Bergen is calling for prohibiting unemployment claims during the emergency from downgrading business experience ratings and unemployment insurance rates and ensuring losses can be carried forward. He has also proposed providing tax credits to businesses for paying employees that are not working to effectuate A3846 which was not signed by the governor, and ensuring businesses are protected from lawsuits that resulted from a response to the pandemic.
Bergen was deferential to how the bills are introduced, hoping bipartisan support will get the relief measures passed.
“It doesn’t matter who the sponsors are, our job is to represent out constituents, not ourselves or our party,” said Bergen. “We need to do everything we can.”