SOMERVILLE, NJ -- Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith, Deputy Mayor Josh Losardo, and Freeholder Chair Al Mirabella are among a bipartisan group of 54 elected officials from across New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District urging Congress to provide desperately needed funding for local governments, regardless of population size, in the next coronavirus emergency relief package.

The letter calls on House and Senate Leadership to take up H.R. 6467, a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Tom Malinowski with over 140 co-sponsors, which would provide $250 billion in stabilization funds to localities with populations lower than 500,000.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, provided stabilization funds for states and large metropolitan areas, but withheld direct support from localities with populations under 500,000, thus excluding every municipality in New Jersey and many of our county governments. In addition, the Treasury Department has thus far said that CARES Act funding provided to states cannot be used to make up for revenues lost due to the coronavirus crisis, which also prevents the state of New Jersey from using the funds to help municipalities facing loss of revenues.

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“The coronavirus pandemic has not only increased costs for local governments, but as a result of necessary, life-saving steps to contain the spread, it has also contributed to a precipitous decline in municipal revenue streams, including but not limited to: property taxes, court fees, parking fees, energy tax receipts, UCC fees, and hotel occupancy fees," the NJ-7 District leaders wrote. (See full text below.)

“Every municipal government in my district will be struggling to pay teachers, police officers and firefighters as the economic shutdown cuts into local revenues," said Congressman Tom Malinowski (D, NJ-7). “This is not a partisan issue outside Washington — our mayors and county officials of both parties are telling Congress that our small towns will only survive if we provide the same kind of relief we have rightly made available to our nation’s businesses. I will continue to advocate relentlessly for adequate state and local assistance in our next Covid-19 bill.”

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer:

We, the undersigned mayors and county officials in the 7th Congressional District of New Jersey, implore you to provide desperately needed funding for local governments, regardless of population size, in the next emergency coronavirus package.

Without targeted stabilization funding, our towns will be unable to continue providing critical services to our residents.  Every municipality in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District is under the 500,000-population threshold and is therefore ineligible for assistance under existing stimulus programs. Our counties and towns have faced enormous costs while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including rapid activation and expansion of emergency services, transitioning to telework to ensure continuity of county government and municipal services, overtime for first responders, testing kits, personal protective equipment, and more.

The coronavirus pandemic has not only increased costs for local governments, but as a result of necessary, life-saving steps to contain the spread, it has also contributed to a precipitous decline in municipal revenue streams, including but not limited to: property taxes, court fees, parking fees, energy tax receipts, UCC fees, and hotel occupancy fees. The combination of lower revenues and higher expenses is compounded by New Jersey’s requirement that municipalities and counties balance our budgets. As a result, small towns in New Jersey will be forced to slash essential services, including public schools, police and fire departments, furlough or layoff municipal employees, or raise taxes on already overburdened residents.

We strongly urge you to include in any future Coronavirus relief package, H.R. 6467, a bipartisan bill with 143 co-sponsors, which would provide $250 billion in stabilization funds to localities with populations lower than 500,000. Under the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, state and local governments with a population under 500,000 would be eligible for support to cover expenses attributable to the COVID-19 epidemic, including lost revenue.

We support this legislation and similar efforts that allow all municipal and county governments to seek assistance regardless of population size. We cannot rely on our state government, which is facing similar revenue shortfalls and increased expenses, to pass federal relief funds to municipalities. Only the federal government has the capacity to help states and local governments of all sizes from falling off a budgetary cliff.

Without your support for this proposal or others like it, our towns will find it increasingly difficult to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to implement responsible economic recovery initiatives. Small town America has been hit just as hard economically during this crisis as our metropolitan areas. It should receive proportionately the same level of relief.

Attached for your consideration are some individual testimonies from Mayors and County officials across New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, detailing the unique burdens that managing a responsible COVID-19 response has placed on our municipal budgets.

Sara Todisco, Mayor Borough of Garwood; Angie Devanney, Mayor Berkeley Heights; Shelley Brindle, Mayor Westfield; Alexander M. Smith, Mayor Scotch Plains; Joshua G. Losardo, Deputy Mayor Scotch Plains; Linda Karlovitch, Mayor Borough of Kenilworth; Christopher Capodice, Mayor Springfield Township; Nora Radest, Mayor Summit; Patrick Giblin, Mayor Cranford; Margaret McManus, Mayor Winfield Township; Al Mirabella, Union County Freeholder Chair; Angel G. Estrada, Union County Freeholder Vice Chair; Angela R. Garretson, Union County Freeholder; Sergio Granados, Union County Freeholder ;Bette Jane Kowalski, Union County Freeholder; Andrea Staten, Union County Freeholder; Christopher Hudak, Union County Freeholder; Rebecca Williams, Union County Freeholder; Kimberly Palmieri Mouded, Union County Freeholder; Todd M. Tersigni, Mayor Phillipsburg; Jackie Benjamin Lieberberg, Mayor Millburn; Brendan P. Rae, Mayor Long Hill; Mike Stanzilis, Mayor Mt. Arlington; William J. Chegwidden, Mayor Borough of Wharton; Carolyn Blackman, Mayor Dover; Robert Greenbaum, Mayor Mt. Olive; Janice Kovach, Mayor Town of Clinton; Michele Lee, Mayor Borough of High Bridge; Jeff Kuhl ,Mayor Raritan Township; Betsy Driver, Mayor Borough of Flemington; Philip Koury, Mayor Franklin Township; Julia Fahl, Mayor Lambertville; Richard Wolfe, Mayor East Amwell Township; Brad Mhyre, Mayor Borough of Frenchtown; Timothy J. Nemeth, Mayor Borough of Stockton; Charlie Herman, Mayor Delaware Township; Henri R. Schepens, Mayor Borough of Milford; Frank Mazza, Mayor Union Township; Shaun C. Van Doren, Hunterdon County Freeholder Director; Susan J. Soloway, Hunterdon County Freeholder Deputy Director; J. Matthew Holt, Hunterdon County Freeholder; John E. Lanza, Hunterdon County Freeholder; Zach T. Rich, Hunterdon County Freeholder; Bob Uhrik, Mayor Borough of Rocky Hill; Jim Baldassare,  Mayor Bernards Township; Lawrence F. Jacobs, Mayor Bedminster Township; Mary Jane Canose,  Mayor Borough of Bernardsville; Patrick N. Boccio, Mayor Green Brook Township; Sadaf Jaffer, Mayor Montgomery Township; Shanel Y. Robinson, Somerset County Freeholder Director; Sara Sooy, Somerset County Freeholder Deputy Director; Brian D. Levine, Somerset County Freeholder; Brian G. Gallagher, Somerset County Freeholder; Melonie Marano, Somerset County Freeholder.