NUTLEY, NJ - U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) held a press conference call this morning with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) ahead of introducing the $500 B State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund today. The aim of the bill is to provide federal resources to states and communities on the frontline of the COVID-19 fight.

“In the midst of a national emergency, the federal government cannot sit on its hands and watch our communities go bankrupt and our people suffer.  This isn’t a blue state or red state issue—this is an American issue—and it requires a national response,” said Sen. Menendez.  

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), signed on as original cosponsors. On the House side, Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) is the lead sponsor of the bill. Sherrill is working closely with Peter King (R-NY). NJ Gov. Phil Murphy quickly endorsed the bill.

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Menendez explained that if the fed doesn't step up, local governments will have to lay off the essential workers we need. All tax revenues are down: sales tax, permit and court fees, parking fees, and taxes paid by residents are all down. First unveiled by Sens. Menendez and Cassidy last month, the SMART Fund will support the essential services of police, firefighters, paramedics, teachers, sanitation, public health and public works employees, and other frontline workers. 

Mikie Sherrill said that raising taxes to cover revenue shortfall will only set back the recovery. She pointed out that in NJ over 10,000 have died due to COVID-19, second only to New York. Sherrill then said "There isn't a place in the America that isn't, or won't be affected by the pandemic: a national emergency requires a national response. The response must put people over party, its not a blue state or red state issue, its an American issue"

According to Sherrill the $500B in direct flexible funding will focus on areas affected greatly by the coronavirus pandemic. It is exactly what the National Association of Governors is calling for she said. The bill ensures that every U.S territory, county, and community can get direct federal funding. In NJ, she explained that means every community from Sussex to Salem county, it eliminates the federal thresholds.  

Sherrill explained that the CARES act provided direct relief to counties with 500,000 or more people. In the NJ-11 district, that left Warren and Sussex County out. Morris County, with a population of just less than 500,000 has had to deal with more COVID-19 cases than some states.

Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.) are leading bipartisan companion legislation in the House of Representatives.  The House bill is cosponsored by Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

“State and local governments in New Jersey are a critical line of defense in the effort to respond to COVID-19,” said Rep. Sherrill.  “The federal government has a responsibility to help. This legislation is an important, bipartisan step toward getting towns, counties, and states the resources they need to keep their residents safe. I want to thank Senator Menendez and Senator Cassidy for their leadership and quick response to the needs expressed by our counties and governors.  I appreciate their partnership, and I’m proud to bring colleagues from both sides of the aisle together to lead on this important piece of legislation.”

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