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What happens if I test positive? Will I get fired if I need to quarantine? Is there any help for medical treatment, paying the bills, or getting food and other essentials?
If you test positive for COVID-19, a New Jersey contact tracer will reach out to you with life-saving information about how best to protect yourself and your loved ones.
COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person, so contact tracers will ask about where you have been and the people you spent time with recently. With your help, those people will be told they may have been exposed to COVID-19. We will NEVER share your name or personal information.
You will also likely be instructed to self-quarantine, staying home to avoid spreading the disease. Your family members will stay with you. However, there are things you can do to help ensure your family isn't infected and contact tracers can provide more information about how to do that.
Contact tracers will also connect you to medical care and any help you or your family may need during this difficult time. There are many programs in place to help you and your family including medical treatment, unemployment insurance, child care resources, and food assistance. Learn more below.
Can my employer fire me if I was told to quarantine and am not able to go to work?
No. Your employer cannot fire you if you need to quarantine. Your job is protected.
The State of New Jersey passed legislation prohibiting an employer – during this public health crisis – from terminating or refusing to reinstate an employee who has, or is likely to have, an infectious disease which requires the employee to miss time at work.
An employee who requests or takes time off from work, based on the recommendation of a public health professional, may not be terminated or refused reinstatement if the employee is likely to infect others in the workplace. Medical professionals will not be making many of these recommendations.
Can I get treatment if I don't have health insurance?
Free COVID-19 testing and treatment is available at Community Health Centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to all people whether you have health insurance or not and regardless of your immigration status.
If you do not have health insurance or lose coverage, you may be eligible for free or low-cost coverage (www.njfamilycare.org) through NJ FamilyCare, New Jersey's publicly funded health insurance program. NJ Family Care includes CHIP, Medicaid and Medicaid expansion populations and covers doctor visits, prescriptions, vision, dental care, mental health and substance use services and even hospitalization.
Can I use sick leave to quarantine?
New Jersey has some of the most comprehensive Earned Sick Leave, Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance laws in the country, which cover all employees -- full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal.
In addition, a new federal law passed in response to the coronavirus emergency requires private employers with fewer than 500 employees and most public employers to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency childcare FMLA leave.
Visit nj.gov/labor to learn more about the many state and federal laws or benefit programs that could help you.
NOTE: If you take family leave, when you return to work, you are generally entitled to return to the same position you held before leave. Your employer may not retaliate against you because you took or attempted to take leave under the NJFLA. To find out more or to file a complaint, go to NJCivilRights.gov or call 973-648-2700.
Can I get unemployment if I need to quarantine?
In addition to New Jersey's unemployment, temporary disability, and family leave benefits, there are several programs available to help you.
Under new federal legislation, the CARES Act, New Jersey's unemployment system can help those who are not typically eligible, including:
- Independent contractors, the self-employed, "gig" workers, and those looking for part-time work, are eligible (known as "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance")
- Those who, under normal circumstances, don't have enough work history or who have exhausted regular Unemployment benefits, are eligible (known as "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance")
In addition, under the CARES ACT, New Jersey's unemployment system can provide more benefits including:
- An additional $600 per week, on top of regular and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits through July 25. (known as "Pandemic Unemployment Compensation"). These payments will be issued separately from regular unemployment benefits.
- An additional 13 weeks of benefits (known as "Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation")
In total, eligible claimants can now receive up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits. New Jersey is providing 20 weeks of extended unemployment to New Jersey workers who have exhausted their state and federal jobless benefits. The state extension kicks in after claimants exhaust 26 weeks of state unemployment plus 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
To apply, visit myunemployment.nj.gov.
NOTE: Applicants will be assessed first for traditional unemployment insurance benefits. If traditional unemployment benefits are not applicable to that worker, the application may be denied first and then assessed by NJ Department of Labor for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.
For more information, the Department of Labor has created a Frequently Asked Questions During the Coronavirus Emergency for NJ Workers resource guide.
What if I can't safely quarantine at home?
When a contact tracer calls, they will discuss any needs you may have, inquire about your living situation, and connect you with additional support if you require help. The State is securing beds at hotels, field medical stations, and other locations for individuals who cannot safely quarantine at home.
What if I need help getting food and other essentials during quarantine?
Many pharmacies and grocery stores offer delivery. Please use these services to the extent possible. A friend or relative may also be able to bring you the supplies you need.
Seniors unable to prepare their meals and have no family member, friend, neighbor or caregiver to help may be eligible for home-delivered meals. Contact your local Area Agencies on Aging for assistance.
In addition, the New Jersey Division of Disability Services provides meals for individuals with permanent disabilities under the age of 60 living alone without support and who have an increased level of risk for serious or life-threatening complications if exposed to COVID-19.
To see if you are eligible or to apply, please call 211.
New Jerseyans enrolled in SNAP may use their Families First EBT card to purchase eligible groceries online through Amazon, Walmart, ShopRite, and The Fresh Grocer. Under federal rules, SNAP benefits cannot be used to pay for delivery fees. Recipients can register their EBT card with Amazon at Amazon.com/SNAP. To learn more about their SNAP programs, visit Walmart, Shoprite, or The Fresh Grocer.
Those in need of food, cash, or other assistance, can learn about what programs are available and how to apply at New Jersey's official COVID-19 website in English and Spanish.
If you are still experiencing difficulties, please call 211, where assistance is free and available in several languages.