NJ State employees will now return to offices on an ongoing basis. Some lawmakers are not happy.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has set an Oct. 18 deadline for all New Jersey state employees to return to their full-time offices for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit the state.
But when that date arrived on Monday, the plans had changed. Only part of the state government workforce was forced to return. The rest would gradually return until the end of November, Murphy’s office said.
The delay caused some confusion in Trenton and left some lawmakers – on both sides – unhappy.
State Senator Kristin Corrado R-Passaic said she was “disappointed” that Murphy, a Democrat running for re-election on November 2, failed to “keep his promise” to reopen all services today -the.
Corrado said she heard from angry residents who went to One Stop unemployment centers in Hackensack and Paterson on Monday to be denied.
“When everything in the private sector is open, the continued closure of important state offices, including unemployment centers, sends the message that the Murphy administration doesn’t care that a lot of people need help. ‘help,’ Corrado said.
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said the delayed deadline is “very confusing for voters who need services.” Weinberg said she was also puzzled as to why critical offices are still not open or fully staffed almost 20 months after the start of the pandemic.
“They should put in place all reasonable health regulations to ensure the safety of the public and the workforce,” she said. “I don’t understand when you can go to a restaurant and the schools are open and all kinds of events are going on so that the state of New Jersey is the last hurdle. “
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Murphy’s administration originally planned to bring all workers back on September 7, after Labor Day weekend. Until now, employees were required to work at least part-time from their desks.
But the deadline was then extended to October 18 to coincide with a new state requirement taking effect that day for all state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing. .
The requirement also caused this further delay. The governor’s office emailed departments last week saying “we have encountered issues with the testing infrastructure and will move forward with returning state employees on an ongoing basis,” according to a copy obtained. by NJ Advance Media.
Murphy’s office didn’t make a public announcement about the change until Monday, when the press asked him about it.
The governor said Monday that the state wants to have “a smooth rollout of testing” for those who choose not to be vaccinated.
“This is the area that made it more complicated,” Murphy said during his coronavirus briefing in Trenton.
Asked to address the concerns of lawmakers, Murphy said Wednesday he would like “a magic wand” to get everyone back to the office “safely, responsibly at some point.”
“We believe this is the most responsible way to do it,” he said during a virtual coronavirus briefing. “And we do this over a period of weeks, not months or years.”
The vaccine requirement for state employees went into effect as planned on Monday, with workers having to prove they have been vaccinated. But unvaccinated workers will only be tested regularly when they return to work in person, Murphy said.
Among the offices that reopened on Monday were in-person services such as motor vehicles, work, children and families. Murphy’s office workers also returned.
The rest of the employees will be gradually put in place according to the following schedule:
- Nov 8: Agency workers over 2,500, including ministries of health, corrections, treasury, environmental protection, transportation and social services.
- November 15: Agency workers with between 500 and 2,500 employees, including education, state parole board and community affairs.
- November 29: Workers at agencies that have fewer than 500 employees – including departments of banking and insurance, agriculture, Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, South Jersey Transportation Authority, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Civil Service Commission, State Board of Public Services, and more.
What about One Stop Unemployment Sites? Murphy said these will be “phased in over the next few weeks.”
NJ Advance Media Editor Matthieu arco contributed to this report.
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