Important COVID-19 Special Education Related Services Update

To Our School Board Community:

We have been trying to anticipate and quickly respond to your questions during this time, given the unprecedented challenges presented to our Boards with COVID-19 and the school closure to students.  We have been providing guidance on how best to meet the needs of your students, staff, and community. Last week we made you aware of pending legislation regarding the use of virtual technologies to provide students with related services. The pending legislation has not been signed by the Governor at this time. However, the State Board of Education voted to allow Commissioner Repollet to sign a temporary relaxation of the rules, “Notice of Rule Waiver/Modification/Suspension.” This emergency adoption of a temporary regulation was signed and takes effect today, April 1, 2020.

The temporary regulation provides in relevant part:

  • Schools shall ensure students with disabilities are provided the same educational opportunities provided to their nondisabled peers through electronic communications, virtual, remote, or other online platforms, as appropriate.
  • Related services to students with disabilities shall be provided through electronic communications, virtual, remote, or other online platforms, as appropriate and as required by the student’s IEP to the greatest extent possible.
  • Allowing the use of electronic communications, virtual, remote, or other online platforms ensures students with disabilities are provided the services they are entitled to, as set forth by a student’s individualized education program (IEP), during extended school closures.

The provision of remote services should still be considered on a case by case basis, and should be consistent with the child’s IEP. Compensatory services may still be necessary once the current health emergency has ended. Our e-mails about recent developments are not intended to substitute for our legal advice to our clients based on your specific needs or requests.  In addition, our guidance is subject to, and can be superseded by new laws, rules, regulations, or orders.  Moreover, some directives from the Federal and State authorities can appear, and can be, contradictory or in conflict, so please contact us for assistance.

As always, please contact us with any questions. We will continue to do our best to keep you updated in the coming days and weeks.

Authored by: Kasi M. Gifford, Esq.

WEBINAR: Good News for New Jersey Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19: An Overview of the NJEDA Grant and Loan Program

Presented by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce

Register here:

 

 

Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Time: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm (edt)

Event Description:

Relief to New Jersey small and mid-sized businesses was announced on March 26 by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (“NJEDA”). If this $75 million package of initiatives is followed by additional State, Federal, and philanthropic sources, it is expected to grow to more than $100 million. In this session, we will discuss what the following approved programs mean to small businesses.

Speakers:
Nicholas F. Talvacchia, Esq., Partner, Cooper Levenson, Attorneys at Law
Jennifer B. Barr, Esq., Cooper Levenson, Attorneys at Law

Topics:
Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program
Small Business Emergency Assistance Loan Program
Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) Emergency Loan Loss Reserve Fund
CDFI Emergency Assistance Grant Program, including

  • UCEDC (United Counties Development Corp;)
  • GNEC (Greater Newark Enterprise Corp.)
  • RBAC (Regional Business Assistance Corp.)
  • NJCLF (New Jersey Community Loan Fund)
  • CBAC (Cooperative Business Assistance Corp.)

NJ Entrepreneur Support Program
Small Business Emergency Assistance Guarantee Program
Emergency Technical Assistance Program
US Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs)
The federal coronavirus stimulus package

Please register to attend to receive a reminder email about the event.  You can also save the following Zoom Meeting URL to join the webinar.

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/954420860

Meeting ID: 954 420 860

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Date Extended: Cooper Levenson Foundation Accepting Scholarship Applications

Deadline Date Extended: May 15, 2020

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.  March 23 , 2020 -Cooper Levenson Foundation, Inc. is offering college scholarship grants to high school seniors residing in the firm’s practice areas, including Atlantic, Cape May and Camden Counties in New Jersey. Candidates must demonstrate academic excellence, active involvement as a volunteer, and financial need, and must be planning to enroll as a full-time student at an accredited two- or four-year university.

“We believe that investing in the education of the next generation is one of the best ways to insure the continuous improvement of a community,” said Lloyd D. Levenson, chief executive officer. “We’re pleased to be able to help high school seniors who demonstrate civic responsibility and academic achievement despite challenges. These are our leaders of tomorrow.”

The application requires sections to be completed by a teacher or school administrator and a volunteer coordinator, and letters of recommendation from each. Students also must furnish an official copy of their high school transcript, proof of SAT or ACT composite score, answers to two essay questions, a Student Aid Report (SAR) report, copy of the submitted Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and a letter of eligibility for a Pell Grant, if applicable.

Scholarship applications are available online here or through high school guidance offices in Atlantic, Cape May and Camden Counties. To be eligible for a scholarship award, applications must be hand delivered or mailed, and received before 5 p.m. on May 15, 2020 at Cooper Levenson Foundation Inc., attn: Donna Vecere, Director of Marketing, 1125 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, N.J. 08401. Email submissions will be accepted. Please email to Angela Robinson at arobinson@cooperlevenson.com.

Cooper Levenson is a full service law firm since 1957, with 67 attorneys and New Jersey offices in Atlantic City and Cherry Hill. The firm has regional offices in Bear, Del., and Las Vegas, Nev. For more information, visit www.cooperlevenson.com.

2020 Cooper Levenson Foundation Scholarship Application

Contracted Services to Boards of Education during COVID-19

To Our School Board Community:

We have been trying to anticipate and quickly respond to your questions during this time given the unprecedented challenges presented to our Boards with COVID-19 and the school closure to students.  We have been providing guidance on how best to meet the needs of your students, staff, and community.  We now have received several questions regarding payment for contracted services.  These services are generally provided by another entity, which employs the individuals, as opposed to the Board directly employing the staff.  Examples of contracted service workers can include bus drivers, cafeteria workers, maintenance or grounds workers, custodial workers, paraprofessionals, related service providers and many others.  While this situation is both evolving and fluid, and this guidance is of course subject to any newly enacted Federal, State, or local laws, rules, regulations or orders, in evaluating your relationship with your contracted service provides we think you should consider the following items:

  • You generally do not pay for services you do not receive, so ask is work under the contract still being performed?  A Board should of course pay for goods and services rendered, and do so as expeditiously as possible as many small businesses may be relying on their contracts with public entities.   Please see our guidance regarding holding meetings to ensure payments can be approved as well as our guidance regarding emergency contracting.  While it is unlikely that bus drivers or paraprofessionals are working, IT support, maintenance and grounds, nursing and other related service providers may still be working.  Check with the contractor.
  • Can work be conducted remotely by contracted service providers?   Some work, like writing reports, evaluating testing results, etc., may be able to be performed remotely.   Maybe there’s a way to remotely provide related services such as speech, PT, OT or other services by video conference?   Can you provide technology to your students so that they can benefit from such services?  This may be important in making your good faith efforts to provide FAPE to your students identified as eligible for special education and related services.  IEP meetings may need to be scheduled so that parents and providers appear remotely.
  • Federal legislation was just passed that may provide some relief to the contractors.   Ask your contractor if they are paying their employees, maybe they will need help in getting assistance from Federal or State agencies.
  • Check contracts for what’s referred to as a “force majeure” clause.  This common clause in contracts may partially or fully excuse both parties from performance or payment when an extraordinary event beyond the control of the parties, like a strike, war, or in this case health emergency, or an “Act of God” (hurricane, flood, earthquake, etc.) prevents the contract from being fulfilled.
  • Check the contracts  for provisions regarding payment during suspension of services – you should pay for services already rendered but generally do not pay for services not rendered and you generally do not prepay for services.
  • Check what insurance is provided by and with your contractor (it may include business interruption insurance for them); what policy do they have and were you an additional insured.

As always, if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Authored by: William S. Donio, Esq.

NJDOL Flier on COVID-19 & Unemployment Benefits

As you may have heard during Governor Murphy’s 2:00 p.m. press conference on March 17, 2020, the State is requesting that all businesses continue to pay their employees. While it is unclear whether it will apply to schools, the Governor explained that there is Federal and state proposed legislation that will provide small and mid-sized businesses with 100 percent compensation for providing two weeks of sick leave to employees, along with tax credits for providing up to three months of Paid Family Leave.

Above and here is a helpful chart regarding different types of leave as they relate to COVID-19 from the New Jersey Department of Labor website.

We encourage you to continue to follow our previous guidance issued earlier today, but will keep you updated as the legislation progresses.

Authored by: Kasi M. Gifford, Esq. and Elizabeth C. White, Esq.

Cooper Levenson Guidance for Payment of Non-Certified or Non-Instructional Staff During State Shutdown

To Our School Board Community:

We have been fielding several questions regarding payment of non-certified or non-instructional staff employees in the public school system during a School District closure to students. This guidance is subject to any laws passed on an emergent basis during this unprecedented time. We recommend your School District consider the following:

  • Follow your plan submitted to the New Jersey Department of Education.
  • Always have the health, safety, and welfare of your students and staff at the forefront of any decision making.
  • Check Collective Bargaining Agreements; while they are not likely to address this type of situation, they may provide guidance, especially if the district has dealt with other emergent situations; be mindful of past practice.
  • Generally, a public entity typically does not pay a salary to a person who is not performing work on behalf of the District.
  • This issue is currently on appeal before the New Jersey Supreme Court, regarding the payment of a salary to employees working fulltime for their associations.
  • However, Boards ARE statutorily authorized to provide “the payment of salary in cases of absence not constituting sick leave…” Therefore a Board can most likely provide extended paid leave to employees.
  • You may consider negotiating payment terms with your local association, but the closing of schools is non-negotiable.
  • During the school shutdown, you should consider the following:
    1. Have employees who work from home provide some form of check-in for staff.
    2. Have designated times in which staff are expected to check e-mails and voicemails.
    3. Have staff continue to respond to parents/follow-up, and be available during the “school day.”
    4. Allow support staff to reach out to teachers they support in the classroom to support them in any way possible.
    5. Consider whether and to what extent employees such as custodians and maintenance workers continue to come into work to keep the buildings clean and the grounds well-kept, subject to restrictions on gatherings, or other closure orders.
  • If you provided extended paid leave to employees not performing job responsibilities:
    1. Notify employees that based upon the length of time the School District is closed, their paid status might change.
    2. The Board should authorize or ratify paid leave.

If you have any further questions about paying employees in the coming weeks, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Authored by: Elizabeth C. White, Esq.

Cooper Levenson’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

 

Our clients, colleagues, and contacts are our primary concern as we continuously monitor the COVID-19 situation. We want to assure everyone that we are working diligently to maintain a healthy environment for our employees and contacts, and that we expect to continue to provide timely and quality legal services to our clients.

Cooper Levenson is committed to following the directions provided by the health authorities. Given the cautions that we are all hearing about social distancing, we encourage our clients to speak with their attorney(s) about meeting remotely through conference calls or video-conferencing whenever possible. We want to reassure you that our firm is fully prepared to work remotely and can continue to serve your legal needs in a timely fashion regardless of any potential closures or quarantines.

Please take care of your health and that of your family. We are monitoring the COVID-19 public health experts and urge you to do the same.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

World Health Organization (WHO)

U.S. State Department

New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH)

 

Coronavirus and Co-Parenting

Authored by: Alexandra K. Rigden, Esq.

As if Coronavirus aka COVID19 hasn’t been disruptive enough, this viral nightmare is having unintended consequences for co-parenting and parenting time. Here are some tips for getting through it:

  1. Accept that you will have to interact more with your ex than usual: Just as we have all been forced to accept a variety of quick and unexpected changes as a result of COVID19, the same goes for co-parenting. Where parenting time exchanges may have been done at school (largely allowing you to not have to see or interact your ex), it may now have to be done at your respective homes for at least a few weeks. If a child has a fever, you and your ex will need to talk about the symptoms and an action plan—to quarantine or not, to medicate or not, etc. When it comes to school closings and getting child care coverage, you and your ex will be on the front lines together. Try your best to approach the situation with civility and understanding. At least it won’t last forever!
  2. One size may not fit all: In times of change and uncertainty, your parenting time schedule may have to change a bit. If schools are closed but work is not, you might need your ex to pinch hit on one of ‘your’ parenting time days if you have a big meeting, for example. For a few weeks at least, it will be all hands on deck. You will likely need your ex’s help, and he or she will need yours. If your ex gets sick, you should keep the kids during what would otherwise be your ex’s parenting time, and your ex should agree. Being rigid about the terms of a parenting time order in these circumstances will not serve anyone. Keep your schedule to the extent you can, and then go back to normal again once this madness is over.
  3. Get used to third parties helping out: Step-parents and significant others can be a source of friction for co-parents. But when kids are out of school and people are getting sick, expect that third parties are going to take on a bigger role. In New Jersey, there is very little that can be done, as a general rule, to prevent a step-parent or significant other from being around a child (absent exceptional circumstances). So, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. You never know…you just might appreciate the help.

Captain’s Table Reception at Progressive Insurance Atlantic City Boat Show Raised Dollars to Help Feed Atlantic County Schoolchildren

Atlantic City, New Jersey (March  , 2020) — “Let Us Eat, Please” and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey hosted the 6th annual Captain’s Table Reception at the Progressive Insurance Atlantic City Boat Show on Thursday, February 27. Guests enjoyed the creations of more than a two dozen chefs from South Jersey’s most acclaimed restaurants, sipped spirits,  enjoyed live music, and toured the boats, yachts and other watercrafts at the exhibit.

This fundraising event was held for the benefit of 22,000 schoolchildren in Atlantic County who depend on free or reduced-price meals in school and are left without food when school is not is session.  The ‘Let Us Eat, Please’ program started when Jim Cooper, a retired attorney and founding partner of the firm, now known as Cooper Levenson, learned from his daughter that her students sometimes go hungry during the summer because they don’t have the benefit of free or reduced-price meals at school during summer break.  Cooper found this unacceptable and decided to do something about it.  Starting with just one school district three years ago, the ‘Let Us Eat, Please’ program expanded each year to include additional school districts. Every two weeks over the course of the summer, families, identified by the school as needing assistance, receive a 30 pound box of groceries, valued at more than $40, at no cost to them. It’s made possible by the dedication of Jim and his many friends and supporters, including the new ‘Let Us Eat, Please’ Chairman of the Board, Kenneth J. Calemmo, Jr., Chief Operating Officer of Cooper Levenson. Calemmo conceived and spearheaded the Captain’s Table fundraiser at the Progressive Insurance Atlantic City Boat Show in 2015, which has now grown to an attendance of nearly 700. The event raised more than $65,000.

Bringing food, help and hope, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey has been fighting hunger and poverty for over 30 years through feeding programs, employment training, nutrition education, and food distribution. More than 40 million pounds of food and groceries is distributed annually to nearly 1,200 partner charities in New Jersey.. These charities include emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, temporary shelters, and programs for seniors and children in need including, Let Us Eat – Please. Both organizations rely on the generosity of supporters to help feed those who would otherwise go hungry. To read more about Let Us Eat – Please, Inc. and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey,  go to www.LetUsEatPlease.org and www.cfbnj.org.

Cooper Levenson Holiday Cards Feature Student Artwork

Cooper Levenson Holiday Cards Feature Student Artwork

Firm Supports ‘Let Us Eat, Please’ in Lieu of Corporate Holiday Gifts

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. Dec. 02, 2019 — Four area schoolchildren will see their artwork professionally published in holiday cards sent by Cooper Levenson Attorneys at Law. The annual holiday art contest encourages students to engage in the arts, and underscores Cooper Levenson’s support of charities in the communities it serves. The cards will be sent to 4,000 clients and friends of the firm.

Winners were chosen from the hundreds of entries submitted:

  1. Kenya McReynolds, an eighth grader from the Egg Harbor City School District
  2. Jenna Vivadelli, a fifth grader from the Hammonton Public School District
  3. Joana Andujar, a fifth grader from the Pleasantville Public School District
  4. Maya Krijt, a seventh grader from the Evesham Township School District

Students receive a $50 gift card and a cupcake party for their classes. The students’ teachers also receive a $100 gift card to use for art supplies. Both students and teachers will be honored at upcoming Board of Education (BOE) meetings.

The holiday cards noted that, in lieu of corporate gifts, the Atlantic City office will contribute to “Let Us Eat, Please,” an organization which feeds hungry families in the region.

About ‘Let Us Eat, Please’

‘Let Us Eat, Please’ was created by the late James L. Cooper, founding partner of Cooper Levenson. Just after his 82nd birthday, he formed the organization after he learned from his daughter, a teacher, about the effects of hunger on the one in five children who regularly attend school hungry. Last summer, through this grassroots, volunteer-driven effort and area schools, 810 families and their 2,300 children received a 30 pound box of groceries every two weeks, at no cost.

Cooper Levenson is a full service law firm since 1957, with offices in New Jersey, Delaware, Florida, Nevada, and New York. For more information, visit www.cooperlevenson.com.