Coronavirus update: Paying rent with security deposits, Rutgers officials take pay cut

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy holds a coronavirus briefing. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office).

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On Friday, New Jersey reported another 3,047 COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total to 102,196.

Another 253 people died as a result of coronavirus, which means New Jersey has now lost a total of 5,617 residents to the outbreak.

Renters can use their security deposits to pay rent

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday that he had signed an executive order allowing tenants to use their security deposits to pay rent, a practice that was previously barred by state law.

“This is money that had been paid up front to secure a lease, and during this emergency renters should have the ability to tap this deposit to help them secure their place in their home,” he said.

The money could be used to make up for a shortfall in the monthly rent cost or pay it in full, Murphy said, since hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans have found themselves out of work as a result of the pandemic and may need extra help to pay their rent.

The administration also set up a website that explains the rights of tenants and landlords during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In March Murphy outlawed all evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus pandemic, so that no residents would be kicked out during New Jersey’s statewide stay-at-home order. He also urged banks — many of which complied — to grant a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments.

Rutgers officials will take a 10% pay cut

Rutgers University president Robert Barchi announced Friday that he, other top administrators, and some athletics officials will take a 10% pay cut for the next four months, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to squeeze the school’s finances.

Barchi said the state’s flagship public university system expects a revenue shortfall of $200 million through June 30, and suggested the financial impact of COVID-19 would extend well beyond the end of this fiscal year.

“Rutgers will weather this storm, but our university — and indeed all of higher education — confronts perhaps the greatest academic and operational challenge in its history,” he wrote in a letter posted on the school’s website.

Among the other cost-cutting measures Barchi announced were 5% pay cuts for some other university officials, a halt to new capital construction projects, a suspension of discretionary spending, and the continuation of a hiring freeze imposed earlier this month.

Barchi said the school is also considering furloughs, workforce reductions, and further wage freezes, and that the administration is in talks with labor union leadership about similar measures for its members.

Municipal court operations will restart

New Jersey’s municipal courts will be able to start conducting remote proceedings as early as Monday as long as all parties agree, under an order issued Friday by the state judiciary.

All municipal courts that can conduct proceedings on virtual basis will have to move all of them online beginning May 11, the order by Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner read.

The judiciary suspended in-person proceedings last month to slow the spread of COVID-19, and began conducting much of the court system’s business remotely.

Friday’s order also extended the suspension of jury trials and grand juries through May 31.

MVC extends closures through May 11

All New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission agency offices, road testing sites, and inspection stations will remain closed through at least May 11, as part of the administration’s effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The MVC initially closed its facilities to the public on March 16, and three days earlier it had extended expiration dates for driver’s licenses, registrations, inspection stickers, and temporary tags for two months.

“The volume of customers that typically visit our agencies would risk the health of our customers and employees alike,” said MVC chief administrator Sue Fulton. “We will continue to strive to make as many services available online as possible.”

Most renewals of driver’s licenses, non-driver IDs, registrations, and commercial registrations can be processed on the MVC’s website, the agency said.

Drivers with suspended licenses who are eligible to have them restored can call the MVC or email with their request.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified who issued the judiciary’s order.

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