New Jersey Is Enlisting State Pensioners to Return to Work

The governor hopes to bolster ranks thinned by the coronavirus, letting retired workers collect regular pay without shrinking their pension payouts.

Looking for extra help amid the pandemic, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called upon retired public employees to return to work and signed an order that lets them get paid without it hurting their pensions.

Retired state and local government workers who are considered necessary to handle the state’s coronavirus crisis can return as full- or part-time workers if they have spent at least 30 days in retirement, according to the executive order

“Right now, we need all the experienced help we can get,” Murphy said during a state coronavirus briefing on Tuesday. “We need to remove any roadblocks that can keep them from service,” he added. 

That includes law enforcement officers, nurses, and office workers who can man the unemployment insurance phone lines at the state Labor Department. 

The executive order from the governor comes as thousands of law enforcement workers in the state are unable to report for duty, either because they have tested positive for COVID-19 or are in quarantine. 

Among other provisions, the order also removed the 25% cap for special law enforcement officers, so that communities—particularly in the state’s shore towns—can hire as many temporary officers to bolster their regular police force as they need. 

New employees hired for the pandemic can also immediately enroll in the state health benefit plan, instead of waiting 60 days to participate. 

Some critics lambasted the governor’s decision, which they saw as encouraging the workers most vulnerable to the disease to return to the workforce, particularly when the state is only beginning to show signs of flattening the curve of the pandemic. On Monday, cases in the state jumped just 9% from the day prior. 

Murphy also stressed that state residents are not yet free and clear from the virus. About 41,000 people in the state have tested positive for the illness and, at last count, roughly 1,000 people have died. This week, the state opened its first field medical station in Secaucus to stem the tide of COVID-19. 

Personal protective equipment such as N-95 masks, face shields, and exam gloves also remain in short supply—even after federal authorities donated 70,000 masks to the state after busting a hoarding locale in Brooklyn. 

Meanwhile, the state pension system remains woefully underfunded, with a ratio of roughly 40%. New Jersey recently suspended nearly $1 billion in spending to help the state government weather the storm. 

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