NEW JERSEY - At an online press conference today, the 10 New Jersey Democratic Congressional representatives each brought a different focus for the upcoming days of the management of the state's COVID-19 crisis and how the federal goverment can be responsive. They talked how small businesses can recover quickly, the role of the Federal Emgency Managment Administralton (FEMA), how transportation and other infrastructure can help the state rebound, and the critical role nursing homes play in caring for the infirm during this challenging time.
All came back to the same center: New Jersey's need for increased support from the Federal government that includes more testing for the virus, an additional testing site in South Jersey, and a financial plan that helps the state move forward in challenging fiscal times.
Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06) was the host of the virtual event, introducing and inviting comments from his nine Democratic colleagues in the House.
Pallone introduced colleague Bill Pascrell (NJ -09), who spoke for many others when he praised the diligence of hospital workers and first responders. Pascrell decried the federal government's current allotments to states and asked for prioritization of those states with the greatest need and number of confirmed COVID-19 hospital patients, noting that the cases in New York and New Jersey comprise 45% of those in the United States. According to Pascrell, "West Virginia receives $470,00 per case, while New Jersey gets only $18,000." He said, "The facts are the facts."
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, reiterated her request for a third FEMA testing site in South Jersey. She said, "New Jersey is the second hotspot in the nation. New Jersey has not fared well for direct state aid. We are looking for equity and equality to support our state."
Donald Norcross (NJ-01) referenced the 718,000 unemployed residents of New Jersey since the lockdown date of March 21, and noted the 5.2 million unemployed nationally which is 20% of the workforce in the country. He described the rising need at New Jersey's food banks - where he said need has risen by 200% in the last month.
Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05) wants to put "money in peoples' pockets" and is on the lookout for the safety of small businesses, as is Andy Kim (NJ-03) whose constituents keep asking him: "When can I go outside? When can I go back to work?" Kim called the need for small businesses to reopen "critically important."
"Some owners are telling me that they have only a few days left. This has been a disaster, mass confusion for small businesses. What's on the line is a way of life in America. I am committed to this mission," Kim said.
Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-07) feels the same way, though he is thinking into the future for ways a recovery could unfold with new ways of thinking about energy use, infrastructure improvement, and putting people back to work.
Malinowski expressed hope that the Gateway Program, which would ease and upgrade travel between New Jersey and New York, would be part of the infrastructure improvement sorely needed across the country. "President Trump has a similar vision," Mallinowski said. "President Trump is willing to spend even more. We have bi-partisan support for an infrastructure bill in Congress." Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-08) wants to be sure that those transportation workers get paid and keep their benefits.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ- 11) spoke about the necessity to pass SALT (State And Local Tax) to provide tax relief for New Jersey's middle class. She echoed the common theme of protesting healthcare workers who are "in the thick of the outbreak." She praised New Jersey scientists who are improving COVID-19 testing and searching for a cure.
"Efforts to open testing centers has been getting pushback from FEMA," noteds Donald Payne (NJ-10) who acknowledged that FEMA has added a month onto their stay in New Jersey., though there will be no more new FEMA sites nationwide. Payne has written to the FDA to approve a new ventilator design. Now local manufacturers can produce more ventilators. "We want to avoid haggling and fighting for critical equipment," said Payne. "The administration has failed us. New Jersey has a desperate need for testing. The things we worried about have come true,'' Payne said.