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Excluded New Jerseyans Fund to provide pandemic-related financial aid to undocumented individuals (read in English and Spanish) 

Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman announced that applications for the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund (ENJF) cash assistance program are now open to eligible individuals who want to apply for the financial benefit.

The $40 million ENJF program will provide a one-time, direct cash benefit to eligible households that suffered an economic hardship due to COVID-19 and were excluded from for federal stimulus checks and COVID-19 related unemployment assistance.           

This includes undocumented individuals, residents returning from the justice system, and any other individuals otherwise excluded from pandemic-related financial help.

Households with annual incomes of up to $55,000 with a documented hardship or lost income due to COVID-19 can apply for this assistance. Eligible applicants will receive a benefit of up to $1,000 per eligible individual and a max of $2,000 per household.

Eligible individuals can go to ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov .

Sarah Adelman, Acting Commissioner (Photo source)

Applications will be processed in the order they are received and until funds are exhausted.

The ENJF program is run by the Department’s Office of New Americans (ONA).

“Eligible individuals can now apply for the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund and start the process to get this critical assistance,” Acting Commissioner Adelman said. “If you did not receive federal stimulus checks and pandemic unemployment assistance, you may be eligible. If you were impacted by COVID and struggled to pay for basic needs including housing, you may be eligible. Visit our website, find out if you are eligible and apply today.”

“We are glad we can extend this assistance to individuals who need it,” Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira said. “Eligibility requirements are on the ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov website. If you know you qualify, the sooner you apply the better. We continue to encourage potential applicants to check if they are eligible and apply.” 

New Jersey is the seventh state to take this type of initiative, following California, Colorado, Washington, New York, New Mexico, and Oregon. It is expected that anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people will participate in this program. 

The state of New Jersey is committed to helping all families rebuild post-pandemic, included undocumented individuals and others who did not previously receive pandemic benefits. 

“The Excluded New Jerseyans Fund builds on Governor Murphy’s commitment to create an economy that works for all New Jerseyans. COVID-19 impacted many New Jersey families but not all were able to receive federal COVID assistance and relief. This fund can help make up for that,” said Deputy Commissioner Neira. “We know that many families impacted by COVID-19 continue to need support. We encourage residents who think they may qualify for this one-time cash assistance program to check their eligibility and apply at ExcludedNJFund.NJ.gov

How to Apply

Applicants will have to submit supporting documents demonstrating:

  • Exclusion from federal COVID-19 stimulus checks and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance;
  • Annual household income;
  • Identification and residency; and
  • Financial hardship due to COVID-19 caused by lost income due to reduced hours/lay off, inability to work due to isolation/quarantine, or due to their child’s remote school learning schedule, illness and/or death due to COVID-19, or inability to pay bills due to loss of income.

Applicants will be able to submit their documents online through a document upload service where they can upload PDFs, screenshots, or images of the supporting documents. Applicants are encouraged to upload all or as many of the required documents as this will help their application move through the approval process faster.

While supporting documents such as proof of identity and eligibility will be requested as part of the application process, applicants will not be asked to submit data related to their place of birth, citizenship or immigration status.

Applications for the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund (ENJF) are now open. (Image via Instagram)

For a list of documents that may be used to prove eligibility, visit here.

Individuals will have to confirm their eligibility before they are able to start the application process. Eligibility requirements for the program may be found here.

Free application assistance is available. For a list of community organizations who can help with filling out the application and answer questions, visit here.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Eligible applicants can expect to receive their benefit within 2-3 weeks after being notified that they are eligible.

“This assistance will be available until funds run out so we urge individuals who meet the eligibility requirements for these benefits and who can provide the required documentation to apply soon starting today,” said ONA Director Johanna Calle.

You might be interested: Affordable, quality child care is top priority for NJ working families, says Commissioner Sarah Adelman 

En Español 

La comisionada interina de Servicios Humanos, Sarah Adelman, anunció que las solicitudes para el Fondo para Residentes de New Jersey Excluidos (ENJF, por sus siglas en inglés) ya están abiertas para las personas elegibles que quieran solicitar el beneficio financiero. 

El programa ENJF, dotado con $40 millones de dólares, proporcionará un beneficio directo en efectivo, de una sola vez, a los hogares que reúnan los requisitos necesarios y que hayan sufrido dificultades económicas debido a COVID-19, que hayan sido excluidos de los cheques de estímulo federal y de la ayuda al desempleo relacionada con COVID-19.          

Esto incluye a las personas indocumentadas, a los residentes que regresan del sistema judicial y a cualquier otra persona excluida de la ayuda financiera relacionada con la pandemia.

Los hogares con ingresos anuales de hasta $55.000 con una dificultad documentada o pérdida de ingresos debido a COVID-19 pueden solicitar esta ayuda. Los solicitantes elegibles recibirán un beneficio de hasta $1.000 por individuo elegible y un máximo de $2.000 por hogar. 

Los individuos elegibles pueden ir a la página ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov.

Las solicitudes se procesarán por orden de llegada y hasta que los fondos se agoten.

El programa ENJF es administrado por la Oficina de Nuevos Americanos (ONA, por sus siglas en inglés) del Departamento.

Elisa Neira, Deputy Commissioner (Photo source)

“Las personas elegibles ya pueden solicitar el Fondo para Residentes de New Jersey Excluidos (ENJF, por sus siglas en inglés) y comenzar el proceso para obtener esta asistencia crítica”, dijo la comisionada interina Adelman. “Si usted no recibió los cheques de estímulo federal y la asistencia de desempleo por pandemia, usted puede ser elegible. Si se vio afectado por COVID y tuvo dificultades para pagar las necesidades básicas, incluida la vivienda, usted puede ser elegible. Visite nuestra página web, averigüe si es elegible y solicite hoy mismo”.

“Estamos contentos de poder extender esta asistencia a las personas que lo necesiten”, dijo la Vicecomisionada Elisa Neira. “Los requisitos de elegibilidad están en la página web ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov. Si usted sabe que califica, cuanto antes lo solicite, mejor. Seguimos animando a los posibles solicitantes a que comprueben si son elegibles y presenten su solicitud.”

Nueva Jersey es el séptimo estado en tomar este tipo de iniciativas, después de California, Colorado, Washington, Nueva York, Nuevo México y Oregón. Se espera que entre 20.000 y 40.000 personas participen en este programa.

El estado de Nueva Jersey se compromete a ayudar a todas las familias a reconstruir después de la pandemia, incluidas las personas indocumentadas y otras que no habían recibido previamente los beneficios de la pandemia.

“El Fondo para Residentes de New Jersey Excluidos se basa en el compromiso del gobernador Murphy de crear una economía que funcione para todos los habitantes de Nueva Jersey. El COVID-19 afectó a muchas familias de Nueva Jersey, pero no todas pudieron recibir asistencia y alivio de COVID federal. Este fondo puede ayudar a compensar eso ”, dijo el Comisionado Adjunto Neira. “Sabemos que muchas familias afectadas por COVID-19 continúan necesitando apoyo. Alentamos a los residentes que piensan que pueden calificar para este programa de asistencia en efectivo por única vez a que verifiquen su elegibilidad y presenten una solicitud en ExcludedNJFund.NJ.gov ”.

Cómo Aplicar

Los solicitantes tendrán que presentar documentos justificativos que demuestren:

  •         Exclusión de los cheques federales de estímulo COVID-19 y de la asistencia de desempleo por pandemia;
  •         Ingresos anuales del hogar; 
  •         Identificación y que vive en NJ; y
  •         Dificultades financieras debidas a COVID-19 causadas por la pérdida de ingresos debido a la reducción de horas/descanso, la incapacidad para trabajar debido al aislamiento/cuarentena, o debido al horario de aprendizaje escolar a distancia de sus hijos, la enfermedad y/o la muerte debida a COVID-19, o la incapacidad para pagar las facturas debido a la pérdida de ingresos.

Los solicitantes podrán presentar sus documentos en línea a través de un servicio de carga de documentos en el que podrán cargar archivos PDF, capturas de pantalla o imágenes de los documentos justificativos. Se anima a los solicitantes a que suban todos los documentos requeridos, o los más que puedan, ya que esto ayudará a que su solicitud avance más rápido en el proceso de aprobación.

Aunque se pedirán documentos justificativos, como la prueba de identidad y la elegibilidad, como parte del proceso de solicitud, no se pedirá a los solicitantes que presenten datos relacionados con su lugar de nacimiento, ciudadanía o estatus migratorio. 

Las solicitudes para el Fondo para Residentes de New Jersey Excluidos ya están abiertas. (Imagen vía Instagram)

Para ver una lista de documentos que se pueden utilizar para demostrar la elegibilidad, visite aquí.

Las personas tendrán que confirmar su elegibilidad antes de poder iniciar el proceso de solicitud. Los requisitos de elegibilidad para el programa se pueden encontrar aquí.

Hay asistencia gratuita para la solicitud. Para ver una lista de organizaciones comunitarias que pueden ayudar a completar la solicitud y responder preguntas, visite aquí.

Las solicitudes se revisarán por orden de llegada. El tiempo de espera para recibir los beneficios es de 2 a 3 semanas después de que los solicitantes hayan sido notificados que son elegibles.

“Esta ayuda estará disponible hasta que los fondos se agoten, por lo que recomendamos a las personas que reúnan los requisitos para recibir estos beneficios y que puedan aportar la documentación requerida a que presenten su solicitud comenzando hoy”, dijo la directora de la ONA, Johanna Calle.

child care

Affordable, quality child care is top priority for NJ working families, says Commissioner Sarah Adelman 

During the pandemic, quality child care became an issue for working parents. With many schools and daycares shut down, working parents struggled to find child care for their children. Child care concerns, however, are not a new issue. For working parents, access to quality and affordable child care is something desperately sought after. 

Improving child care across the state of New Jersey has been at the forefront of Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration for several years now. Before the pandemic, the Murphy Administration had already invested nearly $100 million into New Jersey’s child care assistance program – after child care reimbursement rates had remained relatively flat for a decade.

This week, Governor Murphy and Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman announced the state will invest $83 million to increase reimbursement rates for child care providers serving children in the state’s child care assistance program by an average of 25 percent.

Child care is crucial to a strong economy and strong childhood development

The rate increase will go into effect on Nov. 1, and will include the $6.4 million rate increase that would have gone into effect on Jan. 1 to help child care providers implement the January minimum wage increase. 

“We know that accessing affordable, reliable and quality child care is a top priority for New Jersey families, and it’s critical to our state’s economic health,” Acting Commissioner Adelman said. “This new investment is another critical step forward to help families and build a stronger future for our state.”

The rate increases build on the Murphy Administration’s efforts to improve access to affordable child care and support child care providers and workers, both before and during the pandemic. Governor Murphy and Acting Commissioner Adelman recently announced plans to invest more than $700 million to help parents pay for child care, provide bonus pay to child care workers, and distribute grants and increase support for child care providers. This was the latest in a series of investments that included $400 million in other child care initiatives during the pandemic.

“The Murphy Administration continues making significant investments in child care because child care is crucial to a strong economy and strong childhood development,” Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira said. “With this latest investment, we are giving families and child care providers even more vital support.”

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Elevating the quality of child care in NJ

For low income families who are working, in school, or in training programs, Human Services’ child care assistance programs can help provide resources and financial aid. 

Access to quality child care is something every family should have. According to the state’s Grow NJ Kids site, “Research shows that children who are in quality child care and early learning programs when they are young are better prepared for kindergarten with better reading skills, more math skills and larger vocabularies.” 

Grow NJ Kids is a state-sponsored initiative to raise the quality of child care and early learning throughout New Jersey. Grow NJ Kids gives child care and early learning programs resources to assess and improve their programs. Their mission is to foster ongoing improvement and create a standard way to look at child care and early learning by providing families with an objective rating system. Families can then use this system to assess child care programs and find the best quality program for their family. 

With the latest increase, monthly infant care rates for licensed centers will have increased by nearly 70 percent under the Murphy Administration – from about $724 per month to $1,224 and close to 50 percent on average for all other age groups.


For parents who select a provider with a rating from Grow NJ Kids quality improvement program, that rate jumps even further. For instance, infant care at a Grow NJ Kids program will now be at least $1,326 per month.

“We urge anyone seeking assistance with child care to learn more by visiting childcarenj.gov and contacting your local county Child Care Resource and Referral Agency,” said Assistant Commissioner Natasha Johnson, who directs Human Services’ Division of Family Development, which oversees the child care program. “We are here to support families with information about applying for assistance and finding quality child care.” 

Gov. Phil Murphy awards $4 million in grant funding to community organizations assisting residents in health insurance enrollment

Navigator organizations to provide assistance to uninsured and underserved NJ residents during the upcoming ACA Open Enrollment Period and year-round. 

Governor Phil Murphy and Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) Commissioner Marlene Caride recently announced the award of nearly $4 million in grant funding for community organizations to serve as state Navigators. These organizations will provide free outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to residents shopping for health insurance during the Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Period. Open Enrollment at Get Covered New Jersey, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, begins on November 1st.  

The administration is increasing its investment in Navigators this year by nearly half a million dollars, and expanding the number of awardees, to help consumers enroll in quality, affordable health insurance. 

“Since day one, our administration has fought to improve access to health insurance based on our belief that health care is a fundamental right,” said Governor Murphy. “With this investment, we will expand the network of Navigators in our state and ensure that residents who need health insurance can get the help they need to obtain the coverage and care they deserve.” 

Get healthcare assistance through Get Covered NJ 

Get Covered New Jersey is the state’s official health insurance marketplace. Established by law on June 28, 2019 by Governor Phil Murphy, the marketplace is part of the state’s work to improve access to healthcare coverage for NJ residents and build up the progress made through the Affordable Care Act. 

NJ Diver's licenses

Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy established the state’s official health insurance marketplace, GetCoveredNJ in 2019.

GetCoveredNJ is focused on increasing access to affordable, high-quality health insurance for residents of New Jersey. The marketplace is where individuals and families can easily shop for and buy health coverage, and the only place to receive financial help. You can use GetCoveredNJ to compare health plans and calculate costs, and to choose the plan that works best for you and your family. It is the only place you will be able to apply for financial help to lower your monthly insurance premium and out-of-pocket costs. Through GetCoveredNJ you may also find out if you might qualify for free or low-cost health insurance through New Jersey’s publicly funded health insurance program, NJ FamilyCare.

During the inaugural GetCoveredNJ Open Enrollment Period, enrollment increased by nearly 10 percent over the previous open enrollment. The upcoming Open Enrollment Period at Get Covered New Jersey will run from November 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022, and is the only time during the year residents without coverage through an employer or other program can enroll in health insurance, unless they have a major life event.

With the GetCoveredNJ marketplace, New Jersey can also have a longer Open Enrollment Period and establish Special Enrollment Periods in order to respond to the needs of its residents. For the 2021 plan year, Open Enrollment started November 1, 2020 and ended January 31, 2021. A COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period is now in effect.

GetCoveredNJ allows the state to improve access to healthcare by investing in more outreach and trained experts to provide enrollment help within the community. By continuing to strengthen these Navigator organizations, more residents will have a chance to attain healthcare and assistance throughout the application process. 

“Navigators are an important part of reaching the state’s uninsured residents and ensuring they have access to quality, affordable health coverage and available financial help in their own community. With expanded state and federal financial help available in 2022, we want to ensure as many residents as possible take advantage of low-cost health coverage that is available,” said Commissioner Marlene Caride. “We are excited to continue to expand our network of community organizations providing free, unbiased enrollment assistance to residents. We look forward to working with our community partners as we work to get New Jersey residents covered this Open Enrollment Period and throughout the year.”

Comprehensive list of Navigator organizations  

A total of 18 organizations will be funded for the 2021-2022 year to serve as Navigators to support enrollment assistance in the State-Based Marketplace, expanded from 16 organizations awarded funding last year. All of the organizations serving as Navigators will have the ability to assist residents in-person and remotely. 

A total of $3.9 million will be awarded for the 2021-2022 year, compared to $3.5 million awarded in the 2020-2021 grant year. Navigator grants will support the work of organizations that conduct public education activities and offer free and impartial assistance to consumers to shop for and enroll in coverage on the marketplace, and help them apply for financial help. Grantee activities will include outreach and education year-round for 2022 coverage, including in advance of and during the Open Enrollment Period.

Where to find Navigator Organizations: 

AtlantiCare | Contact: 888-569-1000

Resources

  • LGBTQ health services
  • LifeCenter Fitness
  • Community Program:
    • Healthy Children
    • Healing hearts

Center For Family Services inc. | Contact: 877.922.2377 or access@centerffs.org

Resources

  • NJ COVID
  • Resources for Managing Traumatic Stress
  • Sesame Street in Communities 
  • Resources For Parents and Caregivers
  • Food Access
  • Financial Resources

Family Resource Network | Contact: 800-372-6510, Fax: (609) 392-5621

Resources: 

  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Individual Support 
  • Increase Accessibility
  • Home Independence
  • Scholarship Programs
  • Training & In-service Self Advocacy Training
  • Vocational Services
  • After-School Program
  • Network Support Services

Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean County Fulfill | Contact: 732-918-26000 or main@fulfillnj.org

Resources: 

  • Tax refund Assistance
  • Providing Food
  • Kids Feeding Program
  • Culinary Training
  • Mobile Pantries
  • Affordable Healthcare

Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey | Contact: 609-275-4000 

Resources: 

  • ACCME Academy-find course, resources, support tools, and a community of
  • practice. 
  • Advancing Social Justice Resources
  • Educational Design Resources
  • Research Opportunities

HOPES Community-action Partnership Incorporated | Contact: 855-654-6737

Resources: 

  • Infant Head start Program
  • Adult Financial Literacy Workshop
  • Seniors Assisted
  • Transportation Program

Lakewood Resource and Referral Center | Contact: 732-942-9292

Resources: 

  • Affordable Housing
  • assistance
  • Community Education
  • Vaccination awareness

New jersey Citizen Action Educational Fund | Contact: 973-643-8800

Resources: 

  • Free Tax Preparation
  • Financial Coaching
  • Fair Houses Services
  • Consumer’s education

New Jersey Shares | Contact: 609-883-1626 or info@njshares.com

Resources: 

  • NJ Shares Energy Grant
  • Municipal Water Newark & Parsippany- Troy Hills
  • Aqua Aid Program
  • Verizon NJ communications
  • Lifeline Program

Newark Community Health Centers Inc | Contact:  800-994-6242

Resources: 

  • Women’s Health Program
  • Dental Program
  • Behavioral Health Program
  • Specialty Services
  • Pediatric Program

North Hudson Community Action Corporation | Contact: 201-210-0200

Resources: 

  • Program administration
  • Pregnant Woman
  • Parent Family Community
  • engagement
  • Educational Program

Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and southern New Jersey Inc. | Contact: 800-230-7526

Resources: 

  • Free STD testing
  • HIV Testing and Counseling
  • Cancer Screening
  • Abortion

Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers Inc. | Contact:  609-567-0200

Resources: 

  • Behavioral Health
  • Migrant Health
  • Patient Support Services
  • Women’s Health care

St. James Health Inc. | Contact:  973-789-8111

Resources: 

  • Family Planning
  • Geriatrics
  • Prevention, screening
  • Pharmacy Services
  • Social Work
  • Sports Medicine

The Oranges ACA Navigator Project Inc. | Contact: 973-500-6031

Resources: 

  • NJ Family Care Covered Services
  • Doctor Visits
  • Eyeglasses
  • Prescriptions
  • Mental Health Services
  • Immunizations 

University Hospital | Contact:  (973) 972-4300

Resources: 

  • Specialized Services
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • LGBTQ training resources
  • Billing and Financial Counseling

Urban League of Hudson County | Contact:  201-451-8888

Resources: 

  • Affordable Housing & Community development
  • After school Computer learning
  • Child & Adult Care food program
  • Child Care
  • CEO Program

Zufall Health Center | Contact: 973-328-9100 or info@zufallhealth.org

Resources:

  • Covid Testing/ Info
  • Community Programs
  • Outreach Programs
  • Dental Services
  • Patient Support

Enrollment for 2021 coverage remains open through the end of the year through the COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period. Additionally, residents who qualify for NJ FamilyCare (New Jersey’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program) can enroll year-round. More information on health insurance options can be found at GetCovered.NJ.gov

New Jersey lifts mask mandate before Memorial Day weekend 

This Memorial Day weekend will be different from the last. Starting today, Friday May 28th, fully-vaccinated people in New Jersey will no longer be required to wear a mask in most indoor settings as mask mandate lifts, Governor Murphy announces. 

This Memorial Day weekend will be different from the last as NJ lifts mask mandate and social distancing rule for fully vaccinated individuals. (Photo credit: freepik )

 New Jersey is one of the last states to lift it’s masking mandate after the CDC announced its updated guidelines for vaccinated individuals earlier this month. During the height of the pandemic, New Jersey reported the highest per-capita death rate in the U.S. This led to some hesitation from state officials when the CDC’s mask mandate was recently lifted. 

“I do not for one minute regret our taking these extra two weeks to ensure that the dramatic decreases we have begun seeing in cases and hospitalizations continue,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said during a briefing in Trenton. 

Now, the state will begin reopening today, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. As of Friday, May 28th, masks will no longer be required indoors or outdoors for fully-vaccinated individuals. However, there are some exceptions. Masks will still be required in: 

  • State offices, such as Motor Vehicle Commission agencies
  • Worksites that are closed to the public, including warehousing and manufacturing facilities
  • Health care settings, correctional facilities and homeless shelters
  • On airplanes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation
  • In transportation hubs such as airports and stations
  • Child care centers and facilities, elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools

Individual businesses also reserve the right to enforce their own policies regarding mask wearing. 

Mask mandate

Mask mandate lifts for fully-vaccinated people, however individual businesses may still enforce their own policies regarding mask-use indoors. (Food photo created by senivpetro )

For the unvaccinated, Governor Murphy strongly encourages people to continue to wear a mask in any indoor public setting and to get vaccinated when possible. 

 


In addition to lifting the mask mandate, New Jersey is lifting the requirement for maintaining six feet of social distance in indoor and outdoor settings. This means businesses, such as restaurants, can now place tables next to each other, and customers will also no longer be required to remain seated while ordering or drinking at bars, restaurants, and clubs. 

Again, businesses and entities overseeing indoor spaces may continue to require face masks for employees, customers and guests and social distancing will continue to be required in settings where masking is required.

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Lastly, Governor Murphy announced that starting on June 4, all indoor gathering limits will be removed. 

“These steps, when all added together, are the clearest signs of our commitment to carefully and deliberately reopening our state after what has been a truly crushing almost 15 month period,” Governor Murphy said. 

Over the last two months, the state’s daily report of case counts, hospitalizations and deaths have all fallen considerably. These improvements came as vaccination rates rose throughout the state. As of May, about 4.8 million New Jersey residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 4.1 million are now fully vaccinated. These numbers are expected to grow in the coming weeks as we enter the summer.

covid-19 restrictions, mask rule

Is the end in sight? Mask rule lifts for the fully-vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions ease 

CDC announces lift on mask rules for vaccinated individuals and states being easing COVID-19 restrictions. 

Is the end in sight? 

In the past week, new developments regarding COVID-19 restrictions have had many thinking the end might be in sight. Will we really be back to “normal” this summer? 

Following Thursday’s announcement from the CDC which deemed that fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors, retailers across the country were quick to update their policies as the mask rule lifts. Companies such as Walmart, Target, Costco, and Starbucks now allow fully vaccinated customers to go mask-free. 

While these new guidelines bring us one step closer to the end of this pandemic, don’t go getting rid of your masks just yet. As per the guidelines, masks may still be required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance and are still required for all forms of transportation. 

Easing COVID-19 restrictions in NJ 

In addition to the easing mask rule, many states are now in the process of phasing out other COVID-19 restrictions. In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has signed Executive Order No. 239 which will implement the second phase of COVID-19 restriction easing. 

The easing includes the complete removal of the outdoor gathering limit; an increased indoor gathering limit; the complete removal of all percentage-based capacity limits for indoor businesses, outdoor businesses, and houses of worship; and an increased indoor large venue capacity. Additionally, the prohibition on indoor interstate youth sports competitions is being lifted.

These changes are set to take effect on Wednesday, May 19th. Additional details can be viewed at nj.gov

What can travelers expect?

As summer is on the horizon, more people are hoping to travel this year. With the newest guidelines, travel will certainly be possible for fully-vaccinated individuals as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift. 

The updated CDC guidelines for travelers now states that fully vaccinated domestic travelers need not get tested or self-quarantine before traveling. For fully vaccinated international travelers, COVID-19 testing is not necessary before leaving the U.S. unless required by the destination. Fully vaccinated travelers also do not need to self-quarantine in the United States following international travel, though international travelers arriving in the U.S. are still recommended to get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after travel regardless of vaccination status. 

However, you should still pack a mask! Because, while the CDC guidelines have lifted the mask rule for fully vaccinated individuals in many outdoor and indoor settings, masks are still required at all hubs of transportation including airports, buses, and train stations and may still be required depending on individuals local and state laws and private businesses. 

Parks and resorts like Disney and Universal are easing their mask restrictions for guests. Disney has announced that masks in outdoor areas will be optional, a relief for many travelers who struggle in the sweltering Florida heat while wearing a mask. Still, masks will be required for all indoor areas at the park, including theaters, attractions, and transportation. 

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It is expected that many other vacation resorts, hotels, and tourist attractions will be updating their policies and guidelines in the coming weeks, so travelers should keep an eye out for updates as they prepare for their summer getaways!

Gov. Phil Murphy announces $100 million CARES Act funding for NJ small businesses affected by COVID-19

COVID-19 had hit small businesses the hardest, with many having to shut down for extended periods of time and severely limit their services leading to loss of revenue and financial hardship. Luckily relief is on the way for New Jersey small businesses as Gov. Murphy announces $100 million in additional CARES Act funding to support NJ residents and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.   

CARES Act funding to support NJ businesses

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has had a severe impact on the global economy. For months, businesses came to a screeching halt and for states like New Jersey, where small businesses are integral to the economy, local communities felt the economic blow hard. 

“Small businesses and the people they employ are the backbone of New Jersey’s economy, yet they have borne a disproportionate share of the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Murphy. “If we are to emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient than we were before, it is incumbent on us to support them in any way possible. This additional funding helps us accomplish that goal.”

The additional aid comes as a relief to many NJ restaurant and small business owners who have struggled the most during this time. The bulk of the money, $70 million, will be distributed to restaurants, microbusinesses, and other small businesses through Phase 3 of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program. An additional $10 million will be used to help small businesses purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) through the NJEDA Small and Micro Business PPE Access Program. 

Phase 3 of the Grant Program expands eligibility to any business with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) and increases the amount of funding businesses can receive. To ensure funds flow to businesses that need them most, Phase 3 includes set-asides for grants to restaurants and micro-businesses. $35 million will be dedicated to support businesses classified as “Food Services and Drinking Places” under NAICS code 722 and $15 million will be directed to support “micro-businesses” that have five or fewer employees. The remaining $20 million will be available to support any eligible business.

“I want to commend our state leaders for working together to get the federal coronavirus relief dollars we passed last spring into the hands of those who need it most,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.  “This $100 million fund announced today by the Governor and our legislative leaders comes from the money we in Congress included in the CARES Act to help combat the economic fallout of this pandemic.  The federal money will help struggling New Jersey small businesses stay open, help them get the personal protective gear they need to keep employees and customers safe, and provide additional rental and food assistance to residents who need it most.”

In line with Governor Murphy’s commitment to a stronger, fairer recovery, one third of each of these pools will be directed to support entities that are located in census tracts that were eligible to be selected as a New Jersey Opportunity Zone.

 The Administration is also providing $10 million of additional CARES Act funding to support the Authority’s Small and Micro Business PPE Access Program. Launching in late October, this program will utilize an innovative public-private partnership model to enable businesses with 100 employees or fewer to receive grants in the form of automatic discounts on PPE purchased through NJEDA-approved “Designated Vendors”.

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 “Supporting small businesses is vital to ensuring New Jersey’s economy withstands the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and is well-positioned for a strong recovery. The Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program and the PPE Access Program are powerful tools that will help thousands of business owners and employees face the challenges the pandemic has created,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Governor Murphy’s strong leadership throughout this outbreak and commitment to supporting these critical programs will provide immediate relief to the business owners and workers who need it most while continuing our progress toward a stronger, fairer recovery.”

Launched in early April, the Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program provides grants to small businesses impacted by the pandemic. To date, over 19,000 small businesses have benefited from the program.

Additional relief for renters and food banks 

The pandemic has also had a devastating impact on many vulnerable NJ families. To help protect them the Administration will also provide $15 million more in rent relief for New Jersey tenants through the DCA’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program. This program reduces the burden renters face by paying landlords directly for up to six months. The funding announced today will cover rent incurred from August 1, 2020 through December 30, 2020. Payments per household will depend on a variety of factors such as location, rental market, family size, and average per household income.  

“The additional support we are providing will extend relief to tenants so they can focus their limited resources on staying safe and secure,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner.

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Lastly, $5 million will go toward supporting food banks and other hunger relief efforts. 

“The coronavirus outbreak has exacerbated existing hunger issues and has created new struggles for families who have lost jobs and wages,” said NJ Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher. 

The CARES Act funding will go toward helping New Jersey’s food banks, pantries, and soup kitchens expand their capacity for these continually increased demands so that they can help feed more NJ families in need.

NJ driver's licenses

Governor Murphy signs new law expanding access to NJ driver’s licenses

Governor Phil Murphy has signed a new law (A4743) to expand access to NJ driver’s licenses. The bill give more residents of the garden state the opportunity to earn a license while decreasing the number of uninsured drivers on the road, improving safety. New Jersey joins thirteen other states including California, New York, and the District of Columbia, in allowing residents to obtain a driver’s license regardless of immigration status. 

NJ driver's licenses

Announcement of the passing of the legislation by Hon. Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy.

Safer, fairer roads for all

NJ Diver's licenses

Official Picture of Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy

“Expanding access to NJ driver’s licenses is critical for the safety of New Jerseyans and a step toward building a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all,” said Governor Murphy. “Allowing residents the opportunity to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status will decrease the number of uninsured drivers and increase safety on our roads. I thank my partners in the Legislature for sending this important bill to my desk. 

The bill will create two categories of NJ driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards: federally compliant REAL ID, which is only available for documented residents, and the NJ Standard Basic driver’s license and ID, which will be available to all New Jersey residents, regardless of immigration status. The bill also ensures that those who hold a Standard Basic driver’s license are treated fairly, prohibiting insurance companies from charging a driver more for having a Standard Basic license and prohibiting employment, housing, and public-accommodation discrimination against an individual for holding a Standard Basic driver’s license or ID. 

The bill will also require the Chief Administrator of Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to establish a two year public awareness campaign to inform the public about the availability of and the requirements to obtain a Standard Basic License or REAL ID. The bill also creates an 11-member advisory board to review the MVC’s implementation of the bill and the issuance of Standard Basic and REAL ID driver’s licenses, with a report for the Board to be issued to the Governor and Legislature containing its findings and recommendations no later than 12 months following the bill’s effective date, which is January 1, 2021. 

Latino community celebrates huge win

NJ driver's licenses, Senator Teresa Ruiz

Senator Teresa Ruiz (L) with Susana G Baumann, Latinas in Business Inc. at the 2019 Latina SmallBiz Expo.

This bill is a huge win for the Latino community and is the culmination of over fifteen years of struggle for this legislation. Since the passing of the bill there has been an outpouring of responses in support of it. 

“It is incredible to imagine the impact it will have on the 168,000 children with undocumented parents and over 400,000 undocumented immigrants of driving age,” said Senator Teresa Ruiz. “These are mothers and fathers striving to make a better life for their children. It is extremely difficult to navigate this state without a car and like every New Jerseyan, they have jobs to get to, children to drop off at school and lives to live. Not only will this law make our roads safer, it will also positively impact our economy and workforce. Other states that have approved similar legislation have seen a significant decrease in car insurance premiums and hit-and-run accidents. We expect to see the same he

“Since the founding of the Latino Action Network in 2009, this has been our number one legislative priority,” said Christian Estevez, President of LAN. “”Governor Murphy’s signing of this bill is a landmark moment for our community and the entire state of New Jersey. It makes our state, a more humane and safe place to live. The coming together of a wide range of constituencies made this possible. It challenges the tone of intolerance set by President Trump at the national level.”

“As the 15th state to pass this legislation, we are shouting from the rooftops that immigrants are welcome in New Jersey,” said Adriana Abizadeh, Executive Director of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF). “As an organization focused on the inclusion of immigrants in this state, I am heartened by the progress we have made. It doesn’t stop here. We will continue to tackle inequalities through policy for some of the most vulnerable among us. ¡Si se pudo!” 

This bill will undoubtedly change the lives of thousands of New Jersey residents, affording immigrants the means to access educational and job opportunities and gain greater mobility in their everyday lives while also ensuring road safety. 

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Margarita Rodriguez, a member of Make the Road New Jersey, knows first-hand the struggle of navigating New Jersey without a license. As a mother, she has at times had to take three buses just to take her son to the doctor and to school. “My life will change now that I can have access to a NJ driver’s license,” she said. “This victory belongs to immigrant brothers and sisters from across New Jersey who have fought so hard for so many years to be able to drive, and for the respect and dignity we deserve. We thank Governor Murphy, who has stood with our campaign from day one, and to our incredible sponsors, especially Assemblymembers Quijano and Schaer, as well as, Senators Vitale, Ruiz, Cryan, Pou and Cruz-Perez, and to Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin for their leadership.”