Lawmakers urge Governor, Labor Department to launch program now to avoid layoffs later
Trenton – Senators Steve Sweeney, Nellie Pou and Steve Oroho today introduced bipartisan legislation to implement a New Jersey Job-Sharing Furlough Program that capitalizes on key provisions of the federal CARES Act. The furlough initiative would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for employers and maximize payments to furloughed employees while fully protecting their health and pension benefits.
The legislators urged the Governor and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to launch the program immediately to maximize savings for public and private employers and to pump as much money as possible into the pockets of furloughed employees before the extra $600-a-week federal unemployment payments end on July 31.
“Launching a statewide Job-Sharing Furlough Program provides savings today while many workers are restricted from performing their full duties, while providing needed savings, which could provide protection from layoffs in the future,” said Senate President Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “That’s why this program has such strong support from municipalities, counties, school boards and public employee unions.”
The New Jersey Job-Sharing Furlough Program capitalizes on two provisions of the federal CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion economic relief package signed into law on March 27. The first provides a Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation payment of $600 a week to workers laid off or furloughed during the health crisis. The second provides for 100 percent federal reimbursement of the cost of state unemployment benefits for any state that enacts a job-sharing furlough program under an existing state law.
“This program will be particularly beneficial for municipal and county governments that would otherwise be forced to lay off workers to avert future budget problems. This legislation will save jobs and protect employee benefits,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic). “We should do everything we can to put more money in the pockets of New Jerseyans today so they will have more money to spend to recharge our economy when the coronavirus crisis ends.”
“Every day we delay costs us money. We have to do everything we can to save tax dollars now to avoid a bigger budget crisis later,” warned Senator Oroho (R-Sussex), the Senate Republican Budget Office. “The federal government included this special furlough program in the CARES Act because it was better to keep people working part-time with full health benefits during the crisis than laying them off without health insurance and overburdening the unemployment system.”
The Employee Job-Sharing Furlough Protection Act that Senators Sweeney, Pou and Oroho introduced today would guarantee furloughed employees that their future pension benefits would not be reduced and that they would continue to accrue seniority. It also allows public and private sector employers to launch furlough programs in compliance with the New Jersey law now for approval retroactively.