House Passes Coronavirus Relief After Democrats Strike Deal With White House

By Jim Tankersley and 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Published March 13, 2020, Updated March 14, 2020

President Trump declared a national emergency at a news conference on Friday afternoon in the Rose Garden.Credit...

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WASHINGTON — President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday over the coronavirus pandemic and announced steps he said would speed the availability of testing, and early Saturday, the House passed a bill reflecting a deal with his administration to provide billions of dollars to help sick workers and to prop up a slumping economy.

Markets rallied on Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration, which he said would free up $50 billion for states and localities to cope with the outbreak — separate from the congressional relief measure — and which would allow the Treasury Department to delay tax filing deadlines for some individuals and businesses.

During a news conference in the Rose Garden, the president also said he would indefinitely suspend interest collections on federal student loans, although no bills would go down. And he instructed the Energy Department to buy enough oil to fill the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve “to the top.”

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Booker Introduces Bill to Get Unemployment Assistance Immediately to Laid-Off Workers

By Insider NJ | March 12, 2020

Senator Cory Booker

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U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today introduced a bill to reduce barriers to unemployment insurance for workers throughout the country who are unable to work due to the Coronavirus. The bill will address “waiting week” requirements, which forces laid-off workers who have satisfied every other eligibility requirement to wait one week before being able to access unemployment assistance. These requirements exist in 42 states (though New Jersey doesn’t have a waiting period).

The bill would federally fund the first week of unemployment insurance during national disasters and public health emergencies and it would give states two years to amend their laws to ban waiting weeks altogether.

“Public health emergencies can quickly become economic disasters for those who are already struggling,” Booker said. “This common-sense bill ensures workers and their families don’t have to needlessly wait to receive assistance when they need it most.”

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N.J. businesses keep illegally raising prices to profit from coronavirus, AG says

Posted Mar 12, 2020

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the Division of Consumer Affairs is cracking down on price gouging — when businesses and merchants increase the price of products more than 10 percent to profit off the public’s concern — by sending out 55 investigators to inspect storefronts around the state.

"We have declared a zero-tolerance policy for price gouging and other unfair business practices that prey on consumers concerned by the COVID-19 pandemic and we must use every available resource to enforce the laws that protect New Jersey consumers,” he said.

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N.J. healthcare network begins new rapid response test for the coronavirus

Posted Mar 12, 2020

A team of New Jersey researchers have unveiled a new tool that could significantly increase the state’s ability to test possible cases of the coronavirus.

Hackensack Meridian Health announced on Thursday that researchers at its Center for Discovery and Innovation in Nutley have gotten final approval to begin using a newly developed rapid response test for the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19.

The new tests will return results within hours, according to the health network. The coronavirus tests currently used New Jersey’s Public Health and Environmental Laboratories and private companies like LabCorp take between one and two days to determine results.

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Here’s How Newark Hospitals are Bracing for Potential Coronavirus Cases

Saint Michael's Medical Center has closed its entrances on Martin Luther King Blvd. and Central Avenue. All visitors must now enter through the main entrance (pictured above).
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NEWARK, NJ — While measures to enforce social distancing across the city and state have become increasingly serious, Newark hospitals are battening down the hatches and adjusting their visitor policies in preparation for potential COVID-19 cases that may touch down in New Jersey’s largest port of entry and city. 

The city’s major medical centers equipped to treat cases of the coronavirus — Saint Michael’s Medical Center, University Hospital and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center — have not reported any positive tests to date. State officials have so far announced 29 cases and one death across six counties.

Shereef M. Elnahal, president and CEO of University Hospital, said every hospital and community doctor in the state should be prepared by now to help fight and contain the outbreak. University Hospital is shoring up all lines of defense when it comes to clinical staff, space and supplies, according to Elnahal. 

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N.J. Transit’s Most Troubled Trains Are Older Than Many of the Riders

By 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

March 12, 2020

An old Arrow III car being maintained at a repair facility in Kearny, N.J. The coaches have a poor performance record. 

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What happens when a railroad runs trains older than many of its riders?

On New Jersey Transit, the nation’s third-busiest commuter rail, riders are regularly learning the unhappy answers.

Aging trains, not surprisingly, tend to break down. When they do that means cancellations, but even when trains run they have fewer cars.

That leaves riders, many of whom pay hundreds of dollars for monthly passes, squeezed into every available space, including the gangway between cars, which is considered unsafe.

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Controversial N.J. law to unmask secret campaign donors is officially dead

Posted Mar 11, 2020

After months of arguments and legal maneuvering, a controversial law forcing the identification of once-secret donors to political organizations that raise millions to influence elections and policy in New Jersey is now officially dead.

U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti on Wednesday granted a permanent injunction against the “dark money” law after the state Attorney General’s Office came to an agreement with groups that sued to overturn it. That means the state cannot enforce the law (S1500).

The law, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed last June, required that certain groups that support candidates or influence policy in New Jersey to disclose donors who give them more than $10,000 a year.

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The new addition to the Biden coalition: Trump’s base | Editorial

Posted Mar 11, 2020

Donald Trump won the 2016 election because the blue wall of traditionally Democratic states across the Midwest crumbled, as white working-class voters selected the man who now seeks to gut their entitlements, eviscerate their health care, slash their safety net, and send more wealth and power to the top of the food chain.

So understandably, pollsters often wonder whether that particular demo, a.k.a. Trump’s Base, will remain loyal in this cycle — especially now that the only choices seem to be a self-absorbed billionaire who has abandoned the working class on a barren corner of a luck-starved neighborhood or a working-class Joe from Scranton.

Put another way: If Tuesday’s Michigan primary was a harbinger, Trump might have something new to worry about.

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Murphy: Most Won’t Have to Pay for Coronavirus Testing

LILO H. STAINTON | MARCH 11, 2020

NJ Spotlight

The virus that causes COVID-19.

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Most New Jerseyans — including uninsured residents — will not have to pay out-of-pocket for medical services related to coronavirus testing thanks to public and private actions designed to reduce barriers to screening and calm peoples’ fears.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday — just hours after New Jersey recorded its first death related to COVID-19, the first fatality in the Northeast — that state agencies had taken steps to immediately waive testing-related copays and other cost sharing for Medicaid members, public employees, individuals insured under state-regulated plans and those without any health care coverage.

The move followed Murphy’s declaration of a public-health emergency on Monday, and was one of a series of actions government officials have taken to control the spread of the disease.

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NJ State of Emergency for Coronavirus Triggers Strict Rules to Curb Price Gouging

JOHN REITMEYER | MARCH 11, 2020

NJ Spotlight

AG Gurbir Grewal: “We have a simple message to businesses seeking to profit from public health fears — don’t do it.”

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The strongest anti-price gouging provisions of New Jersey’s strict consumer-protection law are now in effect, thanks to the state of emergency that Gov. Phil Murphy issued in response to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus.

State officials had already begun to issue warnings to retailers about jacking up prices too high as products like hand sanitizers and surgical masks have been flying off the shelves in the wake of the outbreak, which so far has led to 15 people in the state testing positive for coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, and one fatality.

But Monday evening’s state of emergency declaration now puts a firm lid on how much retailers can increase prices, at least throughout the duration of the emergency. New Jersey retailers who run afoul of the law are also exposed to stiff fines that the state can assess in response to any clear violations.

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