NY, NJ lawmakers call for more aid to help fight coronavirus
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from New Jersey and New York is calling for the creation of a fund to provide at least $40 billion to help their states mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter — led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Pete King (R-N.Y.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) — sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the lawmakers said their states are at “the epicenter of the outbreak” and have a more pressing need for additional resources to navigate response efforts than other areas of the country.
“We request that a separate fund of at least $40 billion be created in the interim emergency COVID-19 relief package and it be allocated among the States based upon their share of the national infection rate according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracking data on April 10, 2020,” they wrote.
“This $40 billion fund would be independent of other proposed state and local stabilization funds using traditional population-based formulas. This proposed formula for disbursing the $40 billion fund will provide assistance to the most impacted states,” they added.
The group noted that just under half of the cases seen in the United States have taken place in the two states, yet they have only received 9 percent in federal aid to hospitals despite the disproportionate burden they’ve faced.
“We need to provide resources to our states proportionate to the burden they bear. Currently, New York and New Jersey have a combined number of 208,100 cases of COVID 19, or 45 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the country,” the letter reads.
“As of April 10th, our states have more confirmed cases than the next 18 highest states combined. New York and New Jersey are not alone in the suffering and costs of responding to the pandemic, but federal aid has not been allocated proportionately to the impact of the virus,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers cautioned that without changing the formula on how aid is distributed in the next relief package, it could have grave consequences in the states’ economies and health care systems.
“The current and historical funding formulas used by the federal government are insufficient in the face of this global epidemic. New York and New Jersey need substantial emergency funding in order to fill budgetary holes for critical services during this crisis,” they wrote.
“Without adequate, and proportional assistance, we fear that our states will be forced to cut services, such as health care, education, nutrition, first responders, free and fair elections, and transportation. In addition, this pandemic has negatively impacted the finances of our counties, cities, towns and villages,” they added.
The lawmakers stressed that local governments are facing hardships due to the financial fallout caused by the pandemic, adding that they believe it’s critical that the next bill includes language to help them stay afloat.
“Economically, the business shut down has resulted in reduced sales tax revenues, permit fees, and other local levies. It is also likely that many unemployed landowners will be unable to pay their property taxes, adding even more stress to local budgets,” they wrote.
“Our local governments have also felt the added financial strain of responding directly to COVID-19 as they struggle to meet the needs of the hospitals, police, EMTs and other emergency services. This has resulted in increased expenses for our local governments and we therefore support a separate stabilization fund to address their fiscal needs,” they added.
As top lawmakers look to pass a fourth coronavirus relief measure in coming weeks, Gottheimer noted the strain hospitals in his district have seen since the start of the outbreak
“New Jersey has continued to see a very high caseload, we've got 68,000 cases statewide — in my district which has been hit the hardest we've got 16,000 cases and lost more than 600 people. So as you know some states like Montana. I'm not sure what the numbers are, but thankfully, have not been hit nearly as hard as the whole state and my district's been hit,” he told The Hill in an interview Wednesday.
“So, you start to look at these numbers and you say, just like we would with the natural disaster when a hurricane hits, or a tornado hits, and we focus on where it landed. And unfortunately for us, the eye of the storm has been on our states in the region. And then we should make sure that the resources are allocated going forward,” he added.
The New Jersey Democrat said while the curve is beginning to flatten, it’s critical that Congress act quickly to pass legislation that includes provisions aimed at helping combat all aspects of the crisis.
“You can't have your head in the sand about reality here, and reality is we're getting crushed in New Jersey in New York. We've got so many cases and lost so many lives, and yes, the curve is flattening because of the measures we've taken but you still just yesterday had thousands more who are sick, and lost thousands of more people yesterday,” he said.
“We must help our small businesses right we must have a plan to get back to work that we're developing, which we need as well, right, which is a central position economic crisis, not just a health crisis, but to pass anything right now that does not take into account the multiple fronts that are what that we're dealing with, it's just incredulous to me,” he added.
Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), José Serrano (D-N.Y.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), Jefferson Van Drew (R-N.J.), Andy Kim (D-N.J.), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) also signed on to the letter.