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Sumter, Chaparro & Quijano Bill to Expand Disability Benefits and Paid Family Leave During COVID-19 Outbreak Goes to Governor

(TRENTON) – With the goal to provide more workers with access to paid leave benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, legislation to expand the State’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and Family Leave Insurance (FLI) programs to cover workers impacted by the novel coronavirus received final legislative approval on Wednesday, passing the full Assembly 78-0. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.

Currently, TDI provides cash benefits to workers who suffer an illness, injury or disability that prevents them from working, but wasn’t caused by their job. FLI provides cash benefits to workers for up to six weeks so that they may take care of a seriously ill or injured family member, or bond with a newborn, newly adopted child or newly placed foster child.

Under the new bill (A-3900), which is identical to S-2304, workers who must take time off of work to recover from COVID-19 or take care of a family member suffering from the disease would have greater access to TDI and FLI benefits. The measure is sponsored by Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic), Annette Chaparro (D-Hudson) and Annette Quijano (D-Union).

The bill would expand the definition of a “serious health condition” under both programs so that more workers would become eligible for benefits during a state of emergency declared by the Governor, or as found to be needed by the Commissioner of Health or other public health authority. A “serious health condition” would include an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, like COVID-19. The revised definition would also include known or suspected exposure to the disease or efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, such as self-isolation or self-quarantine.

Assemblywomen Sumter, Chaparro and Quijano released the following statement:

“We are proud that New Jersey has one of the most expansive paid family leave and disability benefit programs in the nation. These vital resources ensure workers are able to take the time off they need to care for themselves and their families, while still receiving a wage.

“The more COVID-19 spreads, the more people will need to self-quarantine and take time away from work. By extending family leave and disability benefits to people impacted by COVID-19, we will lessen the financial burden on workers who do not have access to unemployment benefits but still must stay home from work.”