TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy spent a large portion of his daily press briefing on Monday lobbying federal officials to help fund states hit the hardest by COVID-19.
Joined by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Murphy publicly asked for President Donald Trump and federal lawmakers from both parties to help fund state shortfalls and “prevent this public health emergency from turning into the second great depression.”
During calls with the national coronavirus task force and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Murphy stressed his mess that “direct aid to states is the most pressing of issues.”
Menendez said during the briefing that he is in the early stages of sponsoring a bi-partisan senate bill that will help fund essential services like police, fire, front-line public health workers, teachers and local public works employees. Menendez already has buy-in from one senator across the aisle for the State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) in U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana).
With more support tentatively scheduled for later this week, Menendez said that the bill "makes sure that New Jersey gets its fair share of federal funding.”
He also suggested that the opposition’s objection to more funding is due to New Jersey’s past fiscal irresponsibility.
“To them, all they see is what past administrations had piled up,” said Murphy. “Some have even suggested that our states just go bankrupt. It’s an echo from that classic newspaper headline from the 1970s, except the message today is: ‘Washington to States: Drop Dead.’”
Menendez added that New Jersey's "economy has been shaken," noting that "businesses are struggling" and that "millions have been furloughed or laid-off.”
“People have been suffering, and the state and the nation is hurting,” he said.
He added that the key to opening the economy is widespread testing for COVID-19. Even if the economy opened up, Menendez said that people would not be confident going back to work unless they knew their risk to contract the virus was drastically lowered.
“The federal government needs to do more—and a lot more if we are going to successfully defeat COVID-19 and move our economy forward,” he said. “New Jersey can’t do it alone. A national emergency needs a national response.”
According to Murphy, U.S. Representative Mikie Sherril (D-NJ 11) is working to sponsor a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.