TRENTON, NJ — In a show of teeth that Gov. Phil Murphy has largely avoided bearing throughout the duration of the pandemic, New Jersey’s leader called out Congress on Saturday for its deadlock on direct aid for the states.
The state is relying on the follow-through of the Federal Reserve’s municipal bond program, called the municipal liquidity facility, now more than ever, Murphy said. The program can buy up to $500 billion from states, cities with more than one million people and counties with more than two million people. New Jersey’s most populous city, Newark, has only about 282,000 people.
Murphy said he had a positive talk with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) about a "responsible" borrowing plan. Given the state's declining tax revenue, it could need to borrow as much as $9 billion from the Federal Reserve.
But as Republicans and Democrats squabble over the Paycheck Protection Program, an SBA loan to incentivize small businesses to keep workers on their payroll during COVID-19 that’s set to run out of money, states are being pushed to the side.
“I had a concerning call with Sen. Chuck Schumer last night saying that there is not enough momentum right now in Congress to put any amount of money into direct state aid. That would lead unequivocally to a national disaster,” Murphy said. “When you hear that Congress isn’t finding — and I’m not going to get political here — but there’s one part of Congress that doesn’t see the wisdom to put direct money into states. Let me tell you what the alternative will be, particularly if we can’t borrow money: We will have layoffs that will be historic in our state, at the state level, at the county level and at the local level.”
Murphy went on to implore Congress to pass direct financial assistance to states and then the president to sign it.
New Jersey's caseload increased to 81,420, while the death toll is 4,070 with 7,718 residents hospitalized, a 3% decrease in the daily growth rate over the past two days, according to Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
However, the governor made it clear that despite the trends leaning toward the positive, they are not positive enough for restrictions to be lifted. His governor’s fury continued at the end of the state’s daily press conference as he admonished Atlantic County Surrogate James Curcio for encouraging New Jersey residents to “sound the alarm” in an apparent Facebook call to protest the state’s lockdown.
“Trust American freedom ingenuity and the US Constitution,” he said in the post. “Untie the hands of the Private Sector so it can rescue NJ from this nightmare.”
Murphy, pointing to the 19 coronavirus deaths in Atlantic County, said there would be ”blood on our hands” if the state were to lift restrictions. The calls for anti-lockdown protests come as President Donald Trump pits citizens and states against one another, fomenting public disorder and most likely the spread of the virus.
“Anybody who thinks “let’s just open the place” up will lead to lower infections, lower hospitalizations, lower fatalities, is being completely, utterly irresponsible,” Murphy said, pointing a finger at the camera. (See video of press conference below.)
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