TRENTON, NJ - The leadership team of the New Jersey Senate Republican caucus has called for billions in federal aid to be dedicated to restarting the Garden State’s economy and getting people back to work and school quickly and in the safest manner possible once stay-at-home and other executive orders are lifted.
“The Senate Republican caucus is dedicated to helping New Jersey get through and past the COVID-19 crisis as quickly and safely as possible, and we’re focused on promoting a sustainable economic recovery for families and businesses that have suffered tremendously,” said Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21). “We believe it’s critical that the billions in federal assistance that New Jersey is set to receive be dedicated to restarting New Jersey in a thoughtful and strategic manner that maximizes the value of every dollar spent.”
The federal CARE Act provides more than $7 billion of funds to New Jersey, its various agencies, and local governments. While much of that funding is dedicated to specific agencies or purposes, such as NJ Transit and education, the State will receive a $3.4 billion block grant to support expenditures related to COVID-19 response and recovery.
“While there are limitations in how the federal block grant funds can be employed, the State has a lot of discretion in how to prioritize funding for the many competing needs across New Jersey,” said Senate Republican Budget Officer Steven Oroho (R-24). “Since the federal aid we are receiving is limited, we must focus our efforts to get the biggest bang for the buck. We believe jump-starting the New Jersey economy while taking precautions to prevent future shutdowns should be our number one priority.”
Senate Republicans called for the State’s expenditure of block grant funding to focus on the following priorities:
1. Funding for business & non-profit recovery;
2. Funding to retain essential local government services and increase services directly related to COVID-19;
3. Extra funding for businesses and non-profits to safely reopen; and
4. Funding for the State, schools, and local governments for COVID-19 detection and tracing.
“Our goal is to get New Jerseyans back to school, work, and some sense of normalcy as soon as possible, while protecting people through well-funded disease prevention, surveillance, and response efforts,” said Senate Republican Deputy Leader Robert Singer (R-30). “It’s the combination of these efforts that are necessary for New Jersey’s recovery to take off in a safe and sustainable manner.”
Funding for business & non-profit recovery:
Significant funding for businesses and non-profits in the from of grants should be provided though existing programs operated by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority that have run out of money. Small businesses are the largest employer of New Jerseyans, while the demands on non-profits that supply critical services to vulnerable populations across the state have grown due to the crisis. Funding also should be used to expand eligibility for grants and the amounts they can be awarded. A similar recommendation was recently made by Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25).
“We watched a pair of underfunded business assistance programs offered by the NJEDA run out of money almost immediately upon launching due to overwhelming demand from tens of thousands of small employers,” said Senate Republican Conference Leader Kristin Corrado (R-40). “Without substantial new support in the very short term, many of those businesses won’t survive to see a reopening of the New Jersey economy, while adding to the hundreds of thousands New Jerseyans who already are out of work. Preventing catastrophic business destruction in the short term and supporting efforts to regroup and rehire in the long term must be a focus of the State’s financial planning.”
Funding to retain essential local government services and increase services directly related to COVID-19:
Providing funding to counties and municipalities to help preserve essential programs and directly address new needs related to COVID-19 is critically important. Local governments have not been immune from financial losses and increased costs not addressed though other CARE Act funding sources.
Without new funding, existing critical services that ensure public health and safety will suffer, and additional staff resources will not be available to open public buildings, libraries, beaches, and parks in a safe manner.
“We all agree our first priority is the health and safety of our families. At the same time, we have to balance those concerns with the reality our families and seniors are struggling to make ends meet, so we need to ensure our local families will have jobs to return to once this pandemic passes and we help our local towns provide necessary services while holding the line on property taxes,” said Senate Republican Deputy Conference Leader Chris Brown (R-2).
Extra funding for businesses and non-profits to safely reopen:
This funding would assist businesses and non-profits to incorporate best practices to safely reopen and operate, including: establishing sound social distancing by restructuring ingress and egress, screening staff or patrons for COVID-19 symptoms, limiting occupancy though the realignment or limitation of aisles, tables, chairs, space, etc.; obtaining necessary personal protective equipment and, providing for increased staffing to enhance cleaning and sanitation and to guide, encourage, and enforce proper social distancing.
“In addition to helping our businesses and non-profits to survive the lock down, we must take additional steps to ensure their ability to reopen in a manner that protects customers and employees and furthers our public health objectives,” said Senator Republican Whip Joe Pennacchio (R-26). “Since they have suffered so much financially already, many organizations may struggle to afford the extra staffing, precautionary measures, and infrastructure changes they will need to reopen and operate safely. We don’t want those who cannot afford the necessary precautions to cut corners, which would put people at risk once again.”
Funding for the State, schools, and local governments for COVID-19 detection and tracing:
This would include funding for personnel and equipment to allow for improvements in the ability of the State, schools, and local governments to detect and trace COVID-19, including through third parties. Funds could be used for personnel-intensive tracing efforts and the dissemination of high-speed COVID-19 testing or temperature-gauging devices, and PPE.
“Even after the current lock downs pass, and we begin to reopen society, we’ll have to respond to the continued existence of COVID-19 as a long-term health threat and remain vigilant to prevent large outbreaks,” said Senate Republican Deputy Whip Kip Bateman (R-16). “Properly funding this picket line of defense both locally and at the State level is critically necessary to stop small pockets of infection from spreading unchecked. With that kind of vigilance, we hope to prevent the severe disruption to society, loss of life, and harm to families and our economy that we are currently experiencing from recurring.”