Coronavirus Laws and Information for New Jersey

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Free COVID-19 Resources from NCLC (National Consumer Law Center)

The National Consumer Law Center is considered the best sources for information about consumer law. Their materials are used by attorneys nationwide.

They have announced FREE resources to the public on a variety of debt and credit topics, including  free (during the Coronavirus crisis) access to their online book on Surviving Debt. 

Free Book From NCLC Surviving Debt

Their free online book offers these extremely timely tips to consumers on how rules you should be following now if you've got more expenses you can handle.

LegalConsumer.com highly recommends the materials from the National Consumer Law Center. They are an outstanding organization who advise legal aid lawyers throughout the nation. No one has more knowledge of those who are facing debts.

 

NCLC Announcement

New Free NCLC Resources in Response to COVID-19 

NCLC has been working hard to create and disseminate resources to help attorneys and consumers navigate the COVID-19 crisis, including the following:

NCLC remains committed to providing consumers and attorneys with the most up-to-date information about COVID-related consumer protections, and continues to add content to our Digital Library article on Major Protections Announced in Response to COVID-19and the COVID-19 & Consumer Protectionspage on our website as new information becomes available.

New Article on Enforcing CARES Act Credit Reporting Provisions 

The economic harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will soon translate into pervasive credit reporting harm, as millions of consumers become unable to pay their credit obligations, and creditors, debt collectors, and others furnish negative information about them to the nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). 

A new NCLC articleexplains how consumers can protect their credit reports by enforcing the modest protections offered by the CARES Act, including detailed commentary on:

  • Scope and Application of the CARES Act Credit Reporting Provision
  • Credit Reporting Rights Under the CARES Act
  • Consumer Enforcement of the CARES Act Credit Reporting Provision
  • Special Enforcement Rights for California Consumers

Even the credit reporting industry acknowledges that there will likely be problems with implementation of these new protections, given the large volume of accommodations that creditors are processing and new customer service staff who may be inexperienced in dealing with credit reporting issues. Consumers and advocates are advised to be proactive and vigilant, and to visit NCLC's Credit Reports page for regular updates.

COVID-19 Newsfeed

What we're reading at LegalConsumer.com

Is Your State Doing Enough Coronavirus Testing?

- New York Times - Fri, Jul 10, 2020

“The number of daily coronavirus tests conducted in the United States is only 39 percent of the level considered necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus, as many states struggle to ramp up testing to outpace the record number of cases in recent weeks.

Reopening businesses and returning to normal life requires keeping those who are sick away from those who are healthy. To do that, each state must attempt to identify everyone who is sick — whether or not they have symptoms.

The Harvard researchers say that at minimum there should be enough daily capacity to test anyone who has flu-like symptoms and an additional 10 people for any symptomatic person who tests positive for the virus.

Aside from current testing levels, another important indicator of a state’s testing performance is its positive test rate, which is the percent of tests that come back positive. Lower rates suggest that testing is more widespread and that it is not limited to those with severe symptoms. Positive rates should be at or below 5 percent for at least 14 days before a state or country can safely reopen, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, the current positive rate is 8 percent.”
Larry Brilliant on How Well We Are Fighting Covid-19

- Wired - Wed, Jul 8, 2020

“This is a big fucking deal. If I would not be excommunicated from the world of science, I would call this an evil virus, but I can’t do that because I can’t impugn motives to it. But if I could, I would call it that. It’s certainly pernicious. This is the worst pandemic in our lifetime. And it is the first time we have had a pandemic in the United States in which we have had such a total, abysmal failure of our federal government...

OK, we know to wear a mask. But should we still be swabbing everything with Clorox?

The virus does not exist very long in fomites. I mean you’re talking about a very small percentage of cases that are caused by the pencil, the toilet seat—asterisks on toilet seats, because if you don’t have a cover on the toilet seat, and somebody who’s got Covid takes a poop, you create an aerosol so that can spread. But if you look at the things that we worried about, like the Amazon box that comes to the door, the fact that the virus can do that doesn’t mean it does do that. I don’t scrub my groceries at all. If an Amazon box comes, I open it right away. I’m mostly worried about face-to-face transmission by somebody you have had a conversation with, or you’re stuck in an elevator with, or you’re seated next to somebody at a rock show or at a bar. I don’t go do any of those things. I don’t go to lectures, I don’t go out.”
Trump Pledges To 'Pressure' Governors To Reopen Schools Despite Health Concerns

- NPR - Wed, Jul 8, 2020

“Education groups have asked for at least $200 billion in federal funding to reopen safely and plug holes in state budgets due to the recession. So far, $13.5 billion has been appropriated to K-12 education.

The Republican-controlled Senate has not taken up a bill passed by House Democrats that would allocate hundreds of billions more.

The shuttering of schools this spring has taken an economic toll. Many parents are working from home alongside their children as they receive online education.

In guidance issued last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for bringing children back to the classroom this fall wherever and whenever it can be done safely.”
States sue U.S. Department of Education over diverted virus relief funds for schools

- Associated Press - Tue, Jul 7, 2020

“It could cost California public schools $1.5 billion in funding, he said.

Becerra said it is not that private schools are ineligible for relief funds, but he said Congress called for those funds to be distributed on the basis of need.

“Some of those private schools have already been able to access hundreds of billions of dollars from the CARES ACT Paycheck Protection Program unlike California public schools that can’t,” he said.

In Michigan, officials said the rule could cost public schools at least $16 million, including $2.6 million each in Detroit, the state’s largest district, and Grand Rapids, where DeVos has roots.

“All students in this country deserve an equal chance at an education. That’s why we cannot and will not sit on the sidelines while critical funding specifically allocated based on low-income status is allowed to be re-allocated by counting students who have privileges and resources already available to them,” said Nessel, who announced the lawsuit at a news conference alongside Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state superintendent Michael Rice.”
People At Higher Coronavirus Risk Fear Losing Federal Unemployment Payments

Chris Arnold - NPR - Mon, Jul 6, 2020

“Many people with underlying medical conditions are worried about what's going to happen at the end of the month. It's not currently safe for many of them to go back to work. The COVID-19 death rate is 12 times higher for people with underlying conditions.

But an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits, which has been enabling them to pay their rent and other bills, will stop coming at the end of July.”
Health Justice Lawyer Argues For Nationwide Eviction Moratorium -

- NPR - Sun, Jul 5, 2020

“NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer speaks with law professor Emily Benfer about what local and federal officials need to do to avoid a housing crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
"I think the United States is on the brink of mass evictions across the country. The Aspen Institute estimates that approximately 20 to 24 million people are facing eviction right now. And yet, by the end of July, the CARES Act federal moratorium, the majority of state-level moratoriums and unemployment insurance will expire. These are the only stopgap measures in place to prevent eviction. And yet, we're not seeing the level of urgency necessary to prevent them from happening from the federal government. So, to me, that is an ostrich syndrome that we need to really address to prevent this type of widespread eviction and homelessness."”
See how Canada crushed the curve while the US struggles

- CNN - Fri, Jul 3, 2020

“CNN'S Paula Newton explains what measures Canadians are taking to flatten the curve as countries continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
At this point, Canada is reporting 1/10 the number of case per capita, as the United States.



Fraudulent Jobless Claims Slow Relief to the Truly Desperate

- New York Times - Fri, Jul 3, 2020

“Having your application flagged for review doesn’t necessarily mean someone else tried to pose as you — it just means your state thought it warranted further inspection. Fraudulent claims have forced states to dial up their scrutiny and deploy systems that mark potentially suspicious claims. And those reviews take time.

Ms. Preston, 29, said she had been told that a review of her account would delay payments for at most 72 hours, but that wasn’t even close. “I had called hundreds of times every day for the following week and still didn’t get anything,” said Ms. Preston, whose daughter has to be completely isolated during the pandemic.

The Maine Labor Department said in a Facebook post that claimants should email their identification — an idea that made Ms. Preston nervous, because officials have warned against exactly that in the past. She did it anyway.
Think that extra $600 in unemployment benefits will last until the end of July? Think again.

- USAToday - Fri, Jun 26, 2020

“Many out-of-work Americans counting on receiving an extra $600 a week through the end of July may be surprised to discover that benefit will disappear nearly a week earlier than they expected. 
The additional $600 in weekly jobless benefits provided by the federal government is officially set to end July 31. But states will pay it only through the week ending July 25 or July 26, a significant blow to unemployed workers counting on that money to bolster state benefits that average just $370 a week. ”
My Dead Relative Received a Stimulus Check. Can We Keep It?

- AARP - Thu, Jun 25, 2020

““A [stimulus] payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions about repayments,” according to updated guidance posted on IRS.gov on May 6. “Return the entire payment unless the payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the decedent. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.”

The Treasury and the IRS didn’t use death records to stop payments to dead people because the IRS did not think they had the authority to deny payments to those who filed a 2019 tax return, according to the Government Accountability Office. Treasury also noted that the CARES Act required them to distribute the checks as quickly as possible. The GAO says that IRS should take additional steps to tell people how to return checks made out to dead or incarcerated people.

Since early May, AARP has been urging the Treasury department and the IRS to clarify the rules and procedures on returning stimulus checks sent to deceased people.

Whistleblower: TSA Failed To Protect Staff, Endangered Passengers During Pandemic

- NPR - Fri, Jun 19, 2020

“TSA Federal Security Director Jay Brainard is an official in charge of transportation security in the state of Kansas and has been with the agency for almost 20 years.
He told NPR that the leadership of his agency failed to protect its staff from the pandemic, and as a result, allowed TSA employees to be "a significant carrier" for the spread of the coronavirus to airport travelers.
"We did not take adequate steps to make sure that we were not becoming carriers and spreaders of the virus ourselves," Brainard says. "I believe absolutely that that contributed to the spread of the coronavirus."
His allegations include that personal protective equipment was withheld from TSA employees, that local supervisors were not permitted to mandate masks, that the TSA failed to adequately execute contact tracing, and the TSA declined to require that employees change or sanitize gloves between passengers.
The coronavirus crisis hit during one of the nation's busiest traveling times: spring break.
"You've got communities shutting down. You've got governors shutting things down. And we still hadn't mandated masks. We still hadn't mandated eyewear. We still weren't changing personal protective equipment as often as we needed to," Brainard says.”
Who’s Watching The Kids? The Challenge Of Child Care During A Pandemic

- The 1A - Mon, Jun 15, 2020

“During the pandemic, women are shouldering an outsized amount of the burden of child care. Working women are currently more likely to lose their jobs than their male counterparts. And the impact on the earning potential of women could have severe long-term consequences.
As some states begin to reopen, many have not laid out specific plans for how to address the issue of child care.
How can we get women back into the workforce in the face of the pandemic? And how can we bring the child care system back from the brink?
Which States Are Reopening? A State-By-State Guide

- NPR - Fri, Jun 5, 2020

“Every U.S. state implemented restrictions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. Businesses reduced or ceased operations, people transitioned into working and learning remotely, and nonessential activities were paused. At least temporarily, much of the country was under strict orders to stay home.

But as of May 20, all 50 states have begun the process of easing restrictions on businesses, though public health experts say that some are doing so too quickly. At a May 12 Senate hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.'s top infectious disease expert, expressed concern about some states and localities skipping federal guidelines to open prematurely.”
Congress passes legislation to extend PPP loan deadlines

Nancy Marshall-Genzer - Marketplace - Thu, Jun 4, 2020

“Congress has passed legislation loosening the rules and extending the deadlines for the Paycheck Protection Program, which gives forgivable loans to small businesses to keep people on payrolls. It now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The legislation is designed to smooth out a number of kinks in the program that businesses complained about. Initially, Paycheck Protection loans would only be forgiven if a business spent 75% of the loan money on payroll. The new bill lowers that to 60%. Businesses also have more time to spend the money — six months instead of two. That’s in response to businesses that complained that they couldn’t spend their loan money in such a short time frame when their workers didn’t have much to do, because they were still closed.”
Millions Of Americans Skip Payments As Tidal Wave Of Defaults And Evictions Looms

Chris Arnold - NPR - Wed, Jun 3, 2020

“Americans are skipping payments on mortgages, auto loans and other bills. Normally, that could mean massive foreclosures, evictions, cars repossessions and people's credit getting destroyed.

But much of that has been put on pause. Help from Congress and leniency from lenders have kept impending financial disaster at bay for millions of people. But that may not last for long.

The problem is that these efforts aim to create a financial bridge to the future for people who've lost their income in the pandemic — but the bridge is only half-built. For one thing, the help still isn't reaching many people who need it.

Can’t pay rent amid the coronavirus pandemic? Here’s what you can do

- New York Post - Sat, May 2, 2020

“It’s important to do your research and know which protections for eviction and rent nonpayment apply to tenants where you live. “You can only make decisions if you have this information: Can evictions happen now where you are? If not, when will they open up again?” the managing attorney for the Housing Unit at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, Rachel Garland, tells CNN.

In New York, all tenants are protected under a state eviction moratorium that is in effect until at least Aug. 20.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has also barred evictions due to coronavirus hardship. Tenants, however, must provide proof their income has been affected by the pandemic.

Chicago officials have proposed the Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge to protect those who have lost income due to the virus, and landlords who take the pledge will give eligible renters “who demonstrate significant financial impact resulting from COVID-19” some combination of grace periods on rent payments, written repayment plans or waived late fees for missed payments.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has been tracking every state’s actions and measures amid the coronavirus on its website.

Small Business Rescue Earned Banks $10 Billion In Fees

Laura Sullivan - NPR - Wed, Apr 22, 2020

“For every transaction made, banks took in 1% to 5% in fees, depending on the amount of the loan, according to government figures. Loans worth less than $350,000 brought in 5% in fees while loans worth anywhere from $2 million to $10 million brought in 1% in fees.

For example, on April 7, RCSH Operations, LLC., the parent company of Ruth's Chris Steak House, received a loan of $10 million. JPMorgan Chase Bank, acting as the lender, took a $100,000 fee on the one-time transaction for which it assumed no risk and could pass through with fewer requirements than for a regular loan.

In total, those transaction fees amounted to more than $10 billion for banks, according to transaction data provided by the SBA and the Treasury Department.
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COVID-19 Eviction Suspensions & Free Eviction Resources for New Jersey

We've searched. We've read. Here's what we found.

Best of the Web

Here's the best info on evictions that we've found on the Internet for surviving the COVID-19 economic challenges.

HUD - 50-State Specific Covid Information for Housing

NCLC Free Book on Surving Debt

ProPublica

Other good Sources (via NCLC)

Analysis of CARES ACT Eviction Protections: The National Housing Law Center has issued an analysis of federal and state eviction suspensions, “Enforcing Eviction Moratoria: Guidance for Advocates” (Apil. 3, 2020).

Self-help and advocate eviction pleadings and forms: Go to lawhelpinteractive.org, click on the state on the map and search for self-represented or advocate materials. If there are forms available, you will be referred to the LSC-approved or court-approved websites where all forms are listed. Some states also have eviction expungement forms.

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project has a listing of enacted and pending state and local actions related to evictions.

Regional Housing Legal Services has an updated list of tenant protections during the emergency.

The Eviction Lab also has detailed state-by-state listings regarding renter protections during the emergency.

50 State Google Doc Tracks Eviction Moratoria in all states

A state-by-state list of eviction moratoria is now published by the National Housing Law Project, researched by students at Columbia and University of Pennsylvania. It includes 24 categories of information concerning eviction for each state. more...  

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Where to Return a Stimulus Payment to a Dead Person? (If you want to)

As reported by AARP recently, "The Treasury and the IRS didn’t use death records to stop payments to dead people because the IRS did not think they had the authority to deny payments to those who filed a 2019 tax return, according to the Government Accountability Office. Treasury also noted that the CARES Act required them to distribute the checks as quickly as possible."

As a result, the IRS has said:

“A [stimulus] payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions about repayments,” according to updated guidance posted on IRS.gov on May 6. more...