Gov. Phil Murphy approved expanding the state’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and Family Leave Insurance (FLI) programs to provide more workers with access to paid leave benefits during public health emergencies.
The expansion comes as unemployment claims in the nation rose to 3.2 million in one week. In New Jersey, there were 155,815 claims, an 1,546% increase over the same week in 2019. The figure is expected to increase due to layoffs brought about by mandated closures in retail, personal care, entertainment and hospitality industries.
“No one should have to decide between taking care of themselves or a sick family member and going to work during this pandemic,” said Murphy. “With this new law, we are providing hardworking men and women with the protections that they deserve and ensuring a healthier place to live and work.”
The new law expands the law’s definition of a “serious health condition” to allow individuals access to TDI and FLI benefits during a public health emergency if they must take time off of work because they are diagnosed with or suspected of exposure to a communicable disease or to take care of a family member diagnosed with or suspected of exposure to a communicable disease.
Additionally, the bill expands New Jersey’s earned sick leave law to permit the use of earned sick time for isolation or quarantine recommended or ordered by a provider or public health official as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or to care for a family member under recommended or ordered isolation or quarantine.
“The coronavirus pandemic is creating healthcare challenges with economic consequences for workers and their families,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney. “We must work together to be resourceful, responsive and proactive at a time when so many people are experiencing hardship due to the pandemic.”
Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Annette Chaparro (D-Hudson), who along with Annette Quijano (D-Union) were sponsors of the bill in the Assembly, said in a press statement these resources ensure workers are able to take the time off they need to care for themselves and their families, while still receiving a wage.
“The more COVID-19 spreads, the more people will need to self-quarantine and take time away from work. By extending family leave and disability benefits to people impacted by COVID-19, we will lessen the financial burden on workers who do not have access to unemployment benefits but still must stay home from work.”