U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have announced a bi-partisan $500 billion COVID-19 relief plan for state and local governments.
The State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund would build upon the existing $150 billion set aside in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help states and local governments.
The legislation would also expand eligibility to include counties and towns with populations of 50,000 or greater (the current threshold is 500,000), ensures every eligible entity receives additional funding, increases flexibility for states and local governments to use the funds to plug revenue losses due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and targets additional funding toward coronavirus hot zones.
“As a former mayor, I understand the incredible toll fighting this pandemic is having on cities, towns and states on the frontlines to both wage this war and continue to support their local health departments, pay teachers and first responders, fix the roads and maintain the parks,” Menendez said in a joint statement.
“The COVID-19 pandemic may not know state borders, but it has certainly hit some states and regions harder than others. The proverbial house is on fire and we need to focus the water on the hotspots, because if we don’t put the flames out, they will only jump until the entire block is up in smoke.”
As of this afternoon, New Jersey has the second most coronavirus cases in the country, behind only New York, with 85,301 confirmed patients and 4,202 deaths, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
“Sen. Menendez’s state and mine were hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic. I thank him for his partnership. We worked hard to make sure state and local governments can maintain essential services necessary for employees and employers to survive. We must protect Americans’ financial future,” added Cassidy.
Louisiana has fared much better than the Garden State in terms of coronavirus cases, with 23,928 cases and 1,296 related fatalities as of 12 noon Sunday, their state department of health reports.
Specifically, the funding would be split into three different categories: the first for states, the U.S. District of Colombia, and cities and counties with populations above 50,000, the second for the state’s share of the infection rate relevant to the U.S. population, and the third for state’s revenue losses from being shut down.
Menendez and Cassidy noted that they began formulating the plan after the National Governors Association called for “additional and immediate fiscal assistance.”
“This fund will provide us with a critical resource during this unprecedented time and prevent draconian budget cuts that would negatively impact our state’s fiscal stability and ability to meet the needs of New Jersey’s nine million residents,” stated Gov. Phil Murphy (D).
“I thank Senator Menendez for his leadership and his unwavering commitment to the people of New Jersey.”
Current figures released from the NJ DOH show that Hudson County has the second most COVID-19 cases in the state, 10,486, and the third most deaths: 452.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise applauded Menendez, like he did after the senator introduced a bill that would allow the Federal Reserve to buy local debt, for his continued support.
“This would make a major difference for Hudson County and other areas struggling with [the] financial impact of COVID-19,” DeGise tweeted.
— Tom DeGise (@TomDeGise) April 19, 2020