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NJ legislation to address COVID-19 as candidates, parties adjust

NJ legislation to address COVID-19 as candidates, parties adjust

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Atlantic County Republicans have canceled their annual convention, and some 2nd District congressional candidates are ending in-person events due to concerns about COVID-19, as Trenton lawmakers prepare to pass bills to mitigate the crisis.

The Atlantic County GOP will choose its candidates via a meeting of 23 municipal chairs, Chairman Keith Davis said. He said the meeting will be viewable on Facebook.

Democratic congressional candidates Amy Kennedy, of Brigantine, and Brigid Callahan Harrison, of Longport, have paused all public gathering events, including fundraisers, they said Friday.

Vineland’s Will Cunningham said he will follow the governor’s guidelines and cancel events of more than 250 people. Each candidate said they would rely more on phone and digital communications.

Harrison stressed the need for relief for the travel and tourism industry, which employs many low-wage workers and is being particularly hard hit right now.

Kennedy emphasized passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, to “help to contain the coronavirus outbreak by making sure that workers have access to testing and support if they are sick.”

The state Assembly canceled committee hearings next week except for one that will consider coronavirus legislation, and the full Assembly is planning to vote on the legislation once it emerges from committee.

The Senate will hold hearings Monday but said the meetings would be closed to the public.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Republican leader Jon Bramnick announced bipartisan legislation Thursday that includes measures to permit remote or virtual classroom learning to count toward the 180-day school year requirement.

Other bills are aimed at ensuring that free and reduced-fee lunches continue if schools are closed; requiring insurers to cover COVID-19 testing; setting aside funds for schools to reimburse for the cost of cleaning; and ensuring no workers are fired as a result of being quarantined.

“We are very concerned, in particular, about how our small businesses will be able to weather an economic slowdown,” said New Jersey Business & Industry Association President and CEO Michele N. Siekerka, who asked legislators to pass legislation “for stop-gap funding and any other programs that will assist our businesses and their employees.”

“Many operate on very slim profit margins and often do not have extra cash available for events such as these, which are exacerbated by drastic changes in consumer spending and supply chain disruption,” Siekerka said.

The Atlantic County GOP convention, set for March 25 at Linwood Country Club, normally attracted more than 300 people, Davis said. By limiting those in attendance to just municipal chairpeople, it brings attendance down to well under the suggested maximum of 250 suggested by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Municipal chairs who who can’t attend will be able to participate by phone, he said.

“There is no need for people to come out, particularly since most of the races are settled and uncontested,” Davis said. “We just have to make decisions with respect to the U.S. Senate.”

Candidates who have reported to the Federal Election Commission that they have raised money for their campaigns for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., are Linwood engineer Hirsh Singh; Bergen County attorney Stuart David Meissner; Morris County businessman, lawyer and pharmacist Rik Mehta; and Hunterdon County pharmaceutical scientist Tricia Flanagan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7219

Twitter @MichelleBPost

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