This story originally appeared on NJ Spotlight.
The shutdown of the federal government may be over for now. But, with no guarantees about the future, New Jersey lawmakers have fast-tracked legislation that would help make sure unpaid workers aren’t penalized for falling behind on their property taxes.
Both houses of the state Legislature passed a measure late last week to enable municipalities to come to the aid of federal workers during a shutdown by waiving the typical interest penalties that are charged in New Jersey when a quarterly property-tax bill isn’t paid on time.
No tax payments would be forgiven outright under the bill, but it would allow for a grace period for federal workers who are either furloughed or forced to work without pay. Contractors whose pay comes directly from the federal government could also be offered the same leeway.
The bill was modeled on a similar grace period that has been allowed at times following natural disasters in New Jersey. It was introduced by state lawmakers amid the partial government shutdown that began in December as President Donald Trump insisted on getting significant taxpayer funding for a proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. On January 25, a temporary agreement ended the impasse after 35 days, but the wall was not funded in the deal and another shutdown could begin as soon as February 15 if a new agreement cannot be reached.
“As long as (Trump) occupies the White House there is a threat of another shutdown that would leave federal workers without the paychecks they need to pay their bills,” said Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union).