Gov. Phil Murphy said a new state program helping businesses cope with the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus could be running by next week, and he is imploring companies to keep paying their idled workers until a planned federal sick-leave program gets approved.

Murphy said he knows “anxiety is high” among New Jersey business owners, particularly for small businesses. He said the state applied Tuesday morning for federal disaster assistance from the federal government and was hoping for quick approval – perhaps even later the same day.

“Our entire economic team from my office to the Economic Development Authority is currently working alongside the federal Small Business Administration to ensure that available financial relief can flow into New Jersey as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Murphy said.

“In addition, we are working with our partners in the Legislature in hopes of standing up a state business assistance program within the coming week,” he said.

Among the bills passed Monday by the Assembly, which could be approved Thursday by the state Senate, would authorize the EDA to offer grants for planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, reconstructing, improving, equipping, and furnishing of a project, including, but not limited to, grants for working capital and meeting payroll.

With that help coming, Murphy urged businesses to keep their employees on their payroll so that they will be eligible for a federally funded paid sick leave benefit likely to be created under a bill now moving through Congress.

“I thank every business, large and small, doing the right thing and keeping their employees on payroll in whichever way they are doing it,” Murphy said. “We implore every business owner to every degree possible to follow their model and to continue paying workers.”

“The emergency response bill currently moving through Congress and which we hope will become law would provide employees with significant sick leave and paid family leave benefits,” he said. “Not paying employees now might keep them from taking advantage of these.”

Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said keeping workers on their payroll would help the individual workers and stabilize the economy more broadly, as well as help the effort to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infections.

“The federal government is moving COVID-19 aid packages that will reimburse them 100% for giving employees COVID-19 related paid sick days and family leave,” Asaro-Angelo said. “If the bill is passed as written and as expected, 99.8% of New Jersey employers will be able to defray months’ worth of employee paid time off related to COVID-19.”

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“Paying workers during this pandemic gives our workforce the peace of mind they need to stay at home when they or a family member is ill,” he said.

Murphy encouraged banks, particularly local and regional lenders, to defer loan payments or open credit lines for their small business clients. He also urged banks to be flexible with monthly mortgage payments for the next few months.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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