Day: April 21, 2020

Governor Murphy and Commissioner Caride Announce Expansion of Payment Relief for Student Loan Borrowers

April 21, 2020

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy and Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride announced today that the state has secured relief options with private student loan servicers to expand on the protections the federal government granted to federal student loan borrowers. These new options stand to benefit an estimated 200,000 New Jerseyans with privately held student loans.   “Far too many New Jerseyans struggle with crushing student loan debt in good times, and our current crisis has only exacerbated the problem,” said Governor Murphy. “This initiative will provide much needed relief to New Jerseyans who are struggling with student loans and other financial obligations during this crisis. I commend the private sector servicers that joined this initiative for easing some of the affordability concerns of our student loan borrowers who have been impacted by COVID-19.”The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided much needed relief for students with federal loans, including the suspension of monthly payments, interest, and involuntary collection activity until September 30, 2020. However, the CARES Act does not apply to millions of student loan borrowers with federal loans that are not owned by the US Government as well as loans made by private lenders.  Under the initiative announced today, New Jersey residents with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief.  The initiative is modeled on the agreement made by the New York Department of Financial Services with commercial student loan servicers in its state. Borrowers in need of assistance must immediately contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. Relief options offered by participating servicers include:

  • Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance relief for borrowers; 
  • Waiving late payment fees for borrowers;
  • Ensuring no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting;
  • Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days; and
  • Working with eligible borrowers to enroll them in other applicable borrower assistance programs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has left many New Jerseyans struggling with severe financial hardship,” said Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Caride. “Through this effort, New Jersey residents will have payment options available as they are working to balance the financial needs of their families and obligations that include student loans, during this unprecedented time. This initiative also appropriately protects against negative credit reporting for using these payment options.”“The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has posed financial hardships for many New Jerseyans, particularly those whose employment may have been impacted by this emergency. As residents navigate their ‘new normal’ and strive to protect their own health and safety during this public health crisis, borrowers should not have the added worry of how they are going to repay their student loans,” said Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis, Secretary of Higher Education. “I am pleased to see these additional relief measures that will create greater options for repayment flexibility.”The initiative builds upon the relief provided to student loan borrowers by New Jersey’s Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (NJ HESAA). Last month, Governor Murphy announced that borrowers with loans from the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) program can apply for payment relief programs that fully meet the terms of today’s agreement with other private student loan servicers. “As New Jersey’s state financial aid agency, HESAA remains committed to supporting student loan borrowers,” said David J. Socolow, executive director of HESAA. “We are providing relief for NJCLASS borrowers experiencing illness, unemployment, or financial hardship. HESAA has never charged late fees nor will we do so during this crisis. And during the pandemic emergency, we are protecting borrowers’ credit and suspending involuntary collection activities.”The Department notes that if regulated student loan servicers are limited in their ability to take these actions due to investor restrictions or contractual obligations, servicers should instead proactively work with loan holders whenever possible to relax those restrictions or obligations.  Prudent and reasonable actions taken to support relief for borrowers during the pandemic will not be subject to examiner criticism from the Department of Banking and Insurance.Under today’s announcement, in addition to NJ HESAA, the following are private student loan servicers providing relief:Aspire Resources, Inc.
College Ave Student Loan Servicing, LLC
Earnest Operations, LLC
Edfinancial Services, LLC
Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation
Lendkey Technologies, Inc.
Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA)
Navient Corp.
Nelnet, Inc.
SoFi Lending Corp.
Tuition Options, LLC
Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA)
Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) New Jersey worked cooperatively on this initiative with California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Numerous student loan servicers have been working with borrowers during this time period, and additional servicers are expected to sign onto the initiative. More information and a list of participating servicers may be found at To determine the types of federal loans they have and who their servicers are, borrowers can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) at or call the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 or 1-800-730-8913 (TDD). Borrowers with private student loans can check the contact information on their monthly billing statements. Residents who have questions or are experiencing trouble with their student loan servicer may contact the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-446-7467 (8:30 am to 5:00 pm EST Monday-Friday), or go to the Department website and click on Consumer Assistance – Inquiries/Complaints, at https://www.dobi.nj.govFor more information, see these COVID-19 related Questions and Answers for NJCLASS borrowers:

Murphy Administration Taps I-Bank to Help Ensure Fiscal Stability of New Jersey Municipalities in Response to COVID-19

New Municipal Bond Program Helps Mitigate Financial Impacts to Local Governments During State of Emergency

April 21, 2020

TRENTON, NJ – In response to growing concerns about financial market disruptions on local governments, the Murphy Administration and the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank (I-Bank) have implemented a backstop municipal bond note program. I-Bank’s $50 million liquidity investment, which is designed to help mitigate financial impacts to municipalities during the coronavirus state of emergency, launched on April 15.

“Governor Murphy and I are grateful that New Jersey’s I-Bank is able to step up in these uncertain times to help maintain fiscal solvency in all 565 of our municipalities,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner. “This investment will help calm concerns in our local government units about market volatility. DCA is proud to partner with I-Bank and the New Jersey Department of Treasury to promote economic stability as we ride out this unprecedented crisis.”

The I-Bank Bond Anticipation Note (BAN) Program provides liquidity for municipalities in New Jersey that experience difficulty rolling over BANs in today’s volatile, disruptive municipal bond market. 

According to David Zimmer, Executive Director of the I-Bank, “This liquidity program is just one example of how the Governor is employing the state’s agencies and authorities to proactively address the financial impact of the virus on communities in New Jersey.”

New Jersey’s I-Bank has amended its investment policy to permit it to invest in local government unit BANs in certain circumstances. The BAN purchase program is a limited and specialized resource made available only to participants in I-Bank associated financing programs to address failed sales occurring during BAN rollovers.

This program is designed to ensure solvency and fiscal stability for New Jersey’s local government units, providing protection against potential defaults during the present liquidity crisis. Its general terms are as follows:
The program is of limited duration, authorized only during a period in which the Governor has declared a State of Emergency. Only those BAN rollovers that require assistance, as defined by I-Bank, may participate.

Members of the I-Bank, Treasurer’s Office, and the financial advisor to the I-Bank shall determine the appropriate amount of available funds and liquidity to be invested.There will be sector, issue, and credit limits, interest rate guidelines, and a maturity limit of 90 days for any BAN submitted for consideration.The Director of the Division of Investments in the New Jersey Department of Treasury must approve the purchase of any BAN through the program.

“I’m thrilled that I-Bank is focusing their resources on municipal needs in these challenging times to help ensure that all of our local units remain fiscally stable throughout this crisis. I want to thank I-Bank and the Department of Treasury for their diligence and cooperation in getting this program off the ground so quickly,” said DCA Division of Local Government Services Director Melanie Walter.

“Treasury was pleased to be a part of this coordinated effort to help address the liquidity challenge many governments are facing right now,” said Michael Kanef, Director of Treasury’s Division of Public Finance. “We are hopeful that this additional protection will play a significant role in helping our municipalities weather this time of great uncertainty.”

DCA offers a wide range of programs and services, including affordable housing production, fire safety, building safety, community planning and development, local government management and finance, and disaster recovery.

For more information about DCA, visit or follow the Department on social media:

COVID-19 Violators For April 21st Include Lakewood School Gym Opening, Criminal Mischief At Monmouth Medical Center Lakewood, Throwing Of Bodily Fluids And Other Things At Officers, EMTs Or Others Different Locations Around The State

April 21, 2020

TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, announced the following recent enforcement actions related to COVID-19, including those involving individuals in violation of Governor Murphy’s Executive Orders: Assaults and Threats Against Police Officers, EMTs, or Others

  • Lettie Carstarphen, 29, an inmate at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, was charged on April 7 with terroristic threats during an emergency (2nd degree), aggravated assault on an officer (4th degree), throwing bodily fluid at an officer (4th degree), risking widespread injury (4th degree), and endangering (4th degree).  While at the clinic inside the correctional facility, Carstarphen allegedly intentionally and forcefully coughed and tried to spit at correction officers, stating “I’m going to give you corona and I hope you die.”
  • Immanuela Omini, 21, of Sickerville, was charged yesterday, April 20, by the New Jersey State Police with throwing bodily fluid at an officer (4th degree), obstruction (disorderly persons offense), and resisting arrest (disorderly persons offense).  A state trooper stopped Omini at about 5:30 p.m. for driving recklessly on Sicklerville Road and discovered that she had several outstanding warrants against her.  When Omini refused to get out of her vehicle, the trooper, assisted by officers of the Monroe Township Police Department, had to physically remove Omini from the vehicle.  Omini was placed under arrest on the warrants and for resisting arrest and obstruction.  As she was being placed in a Monroe Township Police vehicle, Omini allegedly spit twice at the trooper, once in her face and once on the chest.

Other Criminal Charges Involving Indictable Offenses

  • Paul J. Smith, 44, of Lakehurst, was charged yesterday, April 20, with false public alarm (2nd degree) and criminal mischief (3rd degree).  Smith allegedly pulled a fire alarm yesterday at Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood.  He also allegedly broke a television, a sink faucet, and an IV pump, causing more than $2,000 in damage.  Hospital staff had to struggle to restrain him.

Other Violations of Executive Orders, Including “Stay at Home” Order, and Ordinances

  • Newark Enforcement.  The Newark Police Department’s COVID-19 task force issued 37 summonses for violations of the emergency orders and ordered four non-essential businesses closed in enforcement actions on Sunday and Monday, April 19 and 20.
  • Yosef M. Notis, 43, of Lakewood, was charged early this morning by the Lakewood Police Department for violating the emergency orders by giving children permission to open the gym at his school on Oak Street to play basketball. There were eight male youths in the gym.
  • Felipe Familia-Lugo, 31, of Dover, was charged yesterday, April 20, by the Dover Police Department with violating the emergency orders for opening his barber shop to cut hair.  Police also charged his brother Jesus Familia-Lugo, 27, of Dover, who was having his hair cut, and Manuel Pandolfo, 33, of Hackettstown, who was also present in the barber shop.  Police investigated when they saw lights on inside the business shortly before 11 p.m. last night.
  • Roland Nunez, 49, Saunialt Adams, 29, Warnetta Johnson, 70, and Juan Gnegorie, were charged late Saturday night, April 18, with violating the emergency orders by hosting gatherings outside their apartments at the Mallard Park Apartments in Penns Grove. Borough police responded to a report of altercations among the groups.  Officers dispersed the crowds.
  • Jarod Rieth, 21, of Haskell, was charged with violating the emergency orders after the Stanhope Police Department stopped his vehicle on Route 206 on the night of April 16.
  • William Hancock, 32, of East Orange, and Roberto St. Juste, 25, of West Orange, were charged on April 17 by the Hampton Police Department with shoplifting (disorderly persons offense) and violating the emergency orders.  Police stopped Hancock and St. Juste for alleged shoplifting and found items stolen from Lowe’s in their vehicle.
  • Tyrell Wright, 26, of Washington Township, Warren County, was charged on April 17 with distribution of less than one ounce of marijuana (4th degree) and violating the emergency orders. Wright allegedly was seen conducting a hand to hand marijuana sale with another individual. 
  • Ryan Peterson, 24, of Budd Lake, was charged on April 14 by the Mount Olive Township Police Department with violating the emergency orders for playing on a soccer field.
  • Shahiem Alston, 33, Shamir Williams, 26, and Jahmahli Carnegie, 19, all of Paterson, were charged yesterday, April 20, by the Paterson Police Department with violating the emergency orders for gathering in the area of 17th Avenue and East 28th Street without an essential purpose, refusing to disperse, and failing to practice social distancing.
  • Miguel Gonzalez, 40, Victor Corota, 50, Alberto Torres, 49, and Jose Montez, 56, all of Paterson, were charged yesterday, April 20, by the Paterson Police Department with violating the emergency orders for gathering in the area of Market and Summer Streets  without an essential purpose and refusing to disperse.
  • Clavon Radcliff, 31, Andre Gordon, 32, Jermaine Brown, 32, and Jerome McGraw, 32, all of Paterson, were charged yesterday, April 20, by the Paterson Police Department with violating the emergency orders for gathering  in the area of 10th Avenue and East 26th  Street without an essential purpose, refusing to disperse, and failing to practice social distancing.

 The defendants who were charged strictly with violating the emergency orders or local ordinances and who do not face more serious charges were charged by summons— they were not arrested.  Those cases will be adjudicated in municipal court.  “One month after Governor Murphy issued his emergency orders, we are flattening the curve and saving lives, because the vast majority of our residents are conscientiously obeying the social distancing rules and doing their share to fight COVID-19,” said Attorney General Grewal.  “Unfortunately, there are still those who violate the orders, risking the further spread of this deadly virus.  What is worse, there are some who deliberately threaten our brave police officers, medical personnel, and other essential workers, impeding their vital work.  Our message to violators is that we will hold you accountable, whether it is through a summons for those who violate the social distancing orders, or an arrest on indictable charges for those who deliberately harm or threaten others during this emergency.”    “Although law enforcement and medical professionals are on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19, we are ultimately winning the war because of the extraordinary resolve and fortitude of New Jersey citizens who are doing their part day in and day out, abiding by the executive orders and sacrificing for the greater good,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.  “Those who choose to ignore the law and selfishly place others at risk will face swift law enforcement action.” Violations of the emergency orders constitute a disorderly persons offense carrying a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.  However, violators can potentially face criminal charges including second, third, and fourth degree indictable offenses. On April 1, Attorney General Grewal announced enhanced charges against six people who were charged with assaulting and threatening law enforcement officers and violating the emergency orders.  Specifically, those enhanced charges included terroristic threats during an emergency, a second-degree offense carrying a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.  Seventeen additional defendants, including Lettie Carstarphen, have been similarly charged since that time for alleged assaults or threats against law enforcement officers, medical personnel, or others. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. If you are seeing a lack of compliance with the Governor’s emergency orders in your town, please contact your local police department or report here The Attorney General’s Office and New Jersey State Police will continue to work with law enforcement throughout New Jersey to deter non-complaint behavior. No one should take advantage of this pandemic to further their own biased agendas.  COVID-19 is no excuse to promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and or other biased stereotypes.  Please report bias crimes at 1-800-277-BIAS.

Smith-Sires Bill Requires Refund Money for Canceled Air Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic

Ties Support for Airlines to Reimbursements to Customers

April 21, 2020

U.S. airline customers, whose travel and flight plans have been upended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will receive full-fare airline refunds—regardless of who initiated the cancelation—under a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) with lead cosponsor Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ). 

     “Many consumers have been left to fend for themselves as they try to get answers and their money back from air carriers and third-party travel services for trips they’ll never get to take,” said Smith, author of HR 6566, the Airline Travelers Equity Act of 2020. “These cancelations are born out of circumstances beyond a traveler’s control. Yet they have been flatly denied refunds or in some cases issued a credit to be used only within a required timeframe.

     “That’s unacceptable—people’s lives and plans have changed dramatically. The airlines—and third-party bookers—should be as understanding as the American taxpayers who are helping the airlines through our federal stimulus bill,” Smith said referencing the fact that the airlines are receiving billions in support from the U.S. taxpayer to help them through the economic impact of COVID-19.

      “In this time of financial uncertainty for so many Americans, airlines should not be forcing people to jump through hoops to get refunds for canceled trips,” Sires said. “I believe that this is a commonsense fix that will allow people to stay home without having to worry if they will get their money back.”

     The Smith-Sires bill mandates that any US air carrier or third-party travel service seeking a federal loan or grant under the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136) must provide refunds to individuals—whether the trip was canceled by the consumer or the air carrier—so long as the trip was to have been taken place during the covered coronavirus emergency period, defined in the bill as March 13, 2020 until 30 days after the national emergency declaration terminates.                  

     Current regulations require US carriers to provide a refund of fares paid by consumers when an airline cancels its flight. During this national crisis however, some flights continued even as travelers were advised to stay home or feared an inability to return due to domestic shelter-in-place policies and/or international lock downs. HR 6566 recognizes that regardless of the flight status, the COVID-19 public health emergency necessitated a change in plans. 

    In response to public outcry, on April 3, 2020 the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued a notice telling air carriers to advise passengers who were issued vouchers that they have the option to receive a refund. Unfortunately the problem remains, prompting some travelers to file lawsuits against certain air carriers refusing to provide a refund.

    “Tragically, thousands of people are now out of work and may need the money—their money—for items other than travel,” Smith said.  “Justice dictates that those companies receiving relief through the emergency coronavirus federal stimulus package, should be helpful and accommodating to their customers caught in the same crisis,” he said.

Governor Murphy Tours Field Medical Station at Atlantic City Convention Center

April 21, 2020

Pool Story by: David Danzis, The Press of Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — The federal government’s field hospital at the Convention Center is operational and officials expect to take in the first patient as early as today.

Gov. Phil Murphy, Mayor Marty Small Sr. and Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director Matt Doherty toured the 258-bed medical facility Tuesday morning along with other officials from the New Jersey State Police, New Jersey National Guard and health professionals.

The field hospital site mirrors those already set up at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus and the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison. “That’s the shortest runway between one of these tours and a patient walking through the doors,” Murphy said, following the brief 10-minute preview of the facility. “That’s a good sign in the sense that it’s ready to go.”The pop-up site will be for non-COVID-19 patients to help alleviate pressure on local hospitals.

However, officials said the field hospital’s primary purpose could quickly change if necessary. The site is under the operation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in partnership with the State Police, state health officials and the region’s Level 1 trauma center, Cooper Medical Center.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers selected the regional site and was responsible for the construction.State Police Sgt. 1st Class Marc Pellegrino told Murphy and other officials that the Atlantic City Convention Center’s infrastructure made the two-week conversion an easier process than at the other locations.”It’s the same setup as the other locations,” Pellegrino said, “but you definitely have more sophistication (here).”Rows of one-bed units blocked off by white curtains lined the Convention Center floor. The field hospital includes an on-site pharmacy and lab testing center.

The Convention Center has the ability to expand to accommodate nearly 3,000 hospital beds.”We need the capacity,” Murphy said. “Whether we need it next week, or a year from now, we don’t ever want to be caught (off guard) again.” 

Dr. Richard Scott, a retired chief medical officer for Meridian Health and orthopedic surgeon, is overseeing the medical operations of the facility. Scott, who drove up from Wilmington, North Carolina to volunteer, said his main objective is ensuring the safety and well-being of the hundreds of medical personal who will be staffing the site.”There are a lot of people that left their left their jobs and left their families to come help others,” Scott said. “So we’re making sure they’re following good safety procedures and protocols and that we’ve got all the personal protective equipment we need.”

Rep. Chris Smith Thanks Taiwan for Sending 200,000 More Masks for NJ 1st Responders, Healthcare Workers

Will Bring total to 300,000…

April 21, 2020

The last cases of a donation of 200,000 medical masks from the Taiwanese government to New Jersey for the state’s first responders and health care professionals arrived today and are a welcomed addition to 100,000 previously donated by Taiwan, said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04).

I want to thank the people of democratic Taiwan for standing with us during New Jersey’s hour of need,” said Smith. “As of today, the full shipment has arrived at a NJ warehouse where it can be distributed to our first responders and healthcare professionals on the frontlines throughout the state,” he added. “We in New Jersey—the second hardest-hit state in the union—had previously received 100,000 masks out of one million recently sent to the U.S. by the Taiwanese people, and this additional 200,000 is most welcome and necessary.

Smith, who has been in contact with the Taiwanese consulates in New York and Washington in seeking personal protection equipment (PPE), has a long history of support working with Taiwan in the face of the longstanding hostility from the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC).

            Ambassador Lily Hsu, the Director-General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, which serves as Taiwan’s de facto consulate, stated “We thank Congressman Smith for his many years of friendship with the Taiwanese people. On behalf of the government and the people of the Republic of China (Taiwan), I am delighted to help supply New Jersey’s first responders and frontline health workers with medical masks. I hope it is a reminder of the friendship which exists between the Taiwanese and American people.”

Smith also lauded Taiwan’s success at containing COVID-19 despite its close proximity to mainland China, where the virus originated.  He said the World Health Organization (WHO) should have heeded Taiwan’s warnings, rather than China’s misinformation, about the deadly outbreak, noting that the world might not be facing such a severe crisis if WHO did not have a bias towards China.   “I and others have been highly critical of the WHO, whose cozy relations with mainland China and failure to ask critical questions abetted the Chinese Communist Party’s disinformation campaign.”

  Smith recently authored an op-ed in the Washington Times on the need for accountability and transparency at the WHO. Smith, who currently serves as ranking member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and for many years was its chairman, has held more than 60 hearings on the Chinese government’s abuses of the human rights of its own citizens, rights which are protected across the Taiwan Strait.  He also is a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

In contrast to the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan stands as a beacon of freedom and an example of democracy. We are happy to accept this life-saving gift from partners who respect human rights and share our values and aspirations,” Smith concluded.

Front Porch Project To Honor Healthcare Workers Thursday Evening

ROBBINSVILLE-EAST WINDSOR-HAMILTON-NJ (MERCER)–On Thursday April 23 from 7-7:30 p.m., Hamilton, Robbinsville and East Windsor residents can show appreciation to our healthcare workers on the front lines by participating in the “Front Porch Project,” hosted by Hamilton Township and RWJ-Hamilton.

Ways residents could show appreciation is by hanging a banner, taking photos, making some noise, chalk your walk, or other creative projects. Do these at home, not at a public place, or by going to a hospital by please practice proper “social distancing.”

When you are finished send photos and videos to and tag photos and videos on social media at @HamiltonTwpNJ and @RWJHamilton also use hashtags #HamiltonProud #EchoingAppreciation #HopeIsInHamilton and #HeroesWorkHeretag