Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a handful of bills recently passed by the state Senate and Assembly.
The new COVID-19 related laws include authorizing the sale and delivery of alcoholic beverages by the holders of certain retail consumption licenses; provide relief for students enrolled in various state higher education financial aid programs and two bills dealing with medical issues.
Under the sale and delivery of alcoholic beverages bill, the holder of retail consumption licenses generally issued to bars and restaurants as well as craft distillery licensees are now permitted to sell and deliver alcoholic beverages in original containers and mixed cocktails for consumption off the licensed premises during the state of emergency.
“New Jersey’s restaurant and hospitality industry, like so many other businesses, has suffered tremendous financial losses due to COVID-19,” said Murphy. “Allowing business owners with certain licenses and permits to sell beverages directly to consumers is a creative way to alleviate some of their financial uncertainty.”
On the education front, relief would be provided for students enrolled in various state higher education financial aid programs and address the unique circumstances brought on by COVID-19.
The new law directs the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) to exclude the Spring 2020 semester from a student’s total lifetime eligibility limits for all state financial aid programs if a student is unable to finish the semester.
No Withdrawal Penalty
Additionally, students who withdrew or reduced credits during this time will not have to repay the state financial aid amounts that the student would have had to return under previous law.
“My administration has made higher education a priority, and we must ensure that no student’s education is negatively impacted by circumstances outside of their control,” said the first-term Democratic governor. “This legislation will protect our students from unforeseen financial hardship brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
The eligibility criteria for the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS) Program and the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship II (NJ STARS II) Program will be temporarily relaxed to allow students to remain eligible even if their Spring 2020 grade point average fell below the previous eligibility minimums.
The legislation was sponsored by Assemblymembers Mila Jasey (D-27), Ralph Caputo (D-28), and Aura Dunn (R-25) and Sens. Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Tom Kean (R-21).
“While the semester is over for most, college students around the state still face immense uncertainty as to what the future will hold,” said Cunningham. “They should not have to worry about whether or not their inability to complete their classes this semester will impact their financial aid eligibility for the years ahead.
“With the coronavirus pandemic affecting all aspects of higher education, we must make sure NJ STARS scholars and all college students’ ability to achieve a degree isn’t hindered,” said Dunn. “Students shouldn’t have to worry about losing their financial aid because the coronavirus has impacted their ability to fulfill all the requirements associated with using financial aid.”
The other bills now law include requiring hospitals to permit individuals to accompany women during childbirth as well as mandating Medicaid and health insurance coverage for certain refills of prescription drugs during state of emergency.