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.