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Moen: Legislation to exempt PPE from taxation ‘just makes sense’

Despite the politicization of so many aspects of this pandemic, there is ample scientific evidence to support the fact that personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, are one of the best ways we currently have to combat the spread of COVID-19.

PPE helps keep our first responders and health care workers safe as they deal with emergency cases while keeping everyday residents safe as they go about their day.

As has been well established by now, wearing a mask helps protect anyone in close proximity to you from the respiratory droplets and particles you expel when talking, sneezing, coughing and simply breathing. Since the virus can be spread by someone who is pre- or asymptomatic, it’s important for everyone to wear masks in public in case they may be sick without realizing it.

Without masks, we would not have been able to contain this contagious virus as much as we have thus far. We would all be at even greater risk of exposure if the people around us did not have anything stopping most of their viral particles and droplets from spreading.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention director, Dr. Robert Redfield, has said, “The best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds.”

That’s exactly why New Jersey has made masks mandatory in public spaces – requiring residents to wear masks inside businesses and in crowded areas outdoors.

Since masks are now required in public, they are not an optional accessory, but a mandatory item.

Our current state law exempts essential items such as most clothing, sanitary products, medicines, grocery store foods and certain medical equipment needed for personal use from sales tax. All of those products are necessary for a person’s health and wellbeing – without them, it would be difficult to function and ultimately survive in our society. Adding PPE to our list of tax-exempt items would really drive home the point that it is essential to our survival.

With COVID-19 infection cases rising, it’s more important than ever to make it clear to New Jersey residents that masks are not optional – that their use is absolutely essential.

In the event of other public health emergencies similar to this one, PPE will continue to be essential. Exempting PPE from taxation now would set a precedent going forward.

More than that, exempting PPE from taxation would help save New Jerseyans money on their purchases at a time when many could use financial assistance. Over 1.7 million residents have filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic while the cost of many goods and services have gone up due to uneven supply and demand or supply chain disruptions.

Families are buying cloth masks, reusable masks, gloves and face shields to try to keep them and their fellow community members safe right now, and those costs can add up. Not having to worry about paying taxes for these crucial items will help keep more money in the pockets of our residents.

That’s why I introduced legislation in early October to exempt PPE from taxation in New Jersey. Masks have now become a critical part of our wardrobe for our protection and deserves this exemption.

Also, this bill could potentially save businesses money as well when it comes to buying PPE for staff and customers to use. At a time when many of our small businesses are struggling because of the economic impacts of this pandemic, every penny counts. Any funds saved on PPE purchases can go towards other critical expenditures, such as rent and employee paychecks.

This would really benefit our state and just makes sense. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature on this legislation and continuing to find more ways to help residents and businesses get through this crisis.

This op-ed was originally published by Asbury Park Press on November 6, 2020: