As you are all aware, we recently posted an article about the ability of New Jersey, its counties, and municipalities to house first responders and others who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in hotels and motels at federal expense. Since that time, numerous NJ Public Safety Officers, as well as the Unions that represent them, have contacted us to inquire as to how to avail themselves to this “non-congregate housing” option as the term is also used. Incredibly, we were told that the State as well as many counties and municipalities had not advised its officers of the possible use of hotels and/or motels to prevent the spread of COVID-19 nor were the governmental entities aware of how to logistically secure this housing option for its officers. More concerning, various officers also advised us that they were unable to secure housing at hotels and/or motels under such a “non-congregate” program. As a result, our office felt it prudent to research the issue further so as to provide additional guidance for you as well as the governmental entities you are employed by to ascertain how to secure such housing.

On April 11, 2020, Governor Murphy and the Superintendent of the State Police, Patrick Callahan, announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) approved New Jersey’s request to use emergency, non-congregate sheltering for individuals impacted by COVID-19 that do not have the means or ability to isolate themselves. It is our understanding that FEMA’s approval allows State, county, and local governmental entities to be reimbursed for providing housing at hotels and/or motels for first responders and healthcare workers who do not require hospitalization, but nevertheless need to avoid direct contact with their families due to exposure to COVID-19.

In simple terms, this is what should take place to put such a plan in motion. Your respective employers should contact a hotel and/or motel within your area and request that housing be provided for you based upon your status as first responders.  In turn, in order for the employer to receive reimbursement for the expense, they must pay for the housing and then seek reimbursement for the same directly from FEMA.  As such, the first step should be for you or your Union to request your respective employers, whether it be on the State, County, or Municipal level, to contact hotels and/or motels within the area and “reach a deal” to provide such housing.  As you may expect, this may be more problematic for State law enforcement officers as the State would need to contact hotels and/or motels in each and every County to meet the needs of officers statewide. Nevertheless, these measures should be explored and utilized immediately by all of your employers in order to safeguard not only your safety, but the safety of your families and loved ones as well.

Please feel free to contact our office is we can assist you with the process of securing such housing in any way.  Moreover, please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain important updates regarding New Jersey Public Safety Officers and the recent impact of COVID-19. Stay safe and healthy.

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Photo of Donald C. Barbati Donald C. Barbati

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues…

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues litigated before the courts and administrative tribunals throughout the State of New Jersey. In addition, Mr. Barbati also routinely represents individuals in various types of public pension appeals, real estate transactions, and general litigation matters. He is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog, a free legal publication designed to keep New Jersey public safety officers up-to-date and informed about legal issues pertinent to their profession. During his years of practice, Mr. Barbati has established a reputation for achieving favorable results for his clients in a cost-efficient manner.

Mr. Barbati has also handled numerous novel legal issues while representing New Jersey Public Safety Officers. Most notably, he served as lead counsel for the Appellants in the published case In re Rodriguez, 423 N.J. Super. 440 (App. Div. 2011). In that case, Mr. Barbati successfully argued on behalf of the Appellants, thereby overturning the Attorney General’s denial of counsel to two prison guards in a civil rights suit arising from an inmate assault. In the process, the Court clarified the standard to be utilized by the Attorney General in assessing whether a public employee is entitled to legal representation and mandated that reliance must be placed on up-to-date information.

Prior to becoming a practicing attorney, Mr. Barbati served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Linda R. Feinberg, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer Vicinage. During his clerkship Mr. Barbati handled numerous complex and novel substantive and procedural issues arising from complaints in lieu of prerogative writs, orders to show cause, and motion practice. These include appeals from decisions by planning and zoning boards and local government bodies, bidding challenges under the Local Public Contract Law, Open Public Records Act requests, the taking of private property under the eminent domain statute, and election law disputes. In addition, Mr. Barbati, as a certified mediator, mediated many small claims disputes in the Special Civil Part.

Mr. Barbati received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, magna cum laude, from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Upon graduating, Mr. Barbati attended Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2007, he received his juris doctorate, magna cum laude, graduating in the top five percent of his class. During law school, Mr. Barbati interned for the Honorable Joseph E. Irenas, Senior United States District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, assisting on various constitutional, employment, and Third Circuit Court of Appeals litigation, including numerous civil rights, social security, and immigration cases.