On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, indicated that talks were being held with Senate Republicans on the next Coronavirus Relief package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he hopes to have a bill ready, when the Senate reconvenes on July 20. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said that the administration would support another round of tax rebate checks and help for restaurants, hotels, and airlines, as well as a “technical fix” to any extension of expanded unemployment benefits so workers don’t earn more in benefits than they would on the job.
Unfortunately, neither Secretary Mnuchin nor Senator McConnell expressed any support for emergency aid to state and local governments.
On February 24, President Trump asked Congress to authorize $2.5 billion to fund the Federal response to COVID-19. Half of that total was to be new funding, with the balance to be made available from existing revenue sources. Congress responded by passing the $8.3 billion Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriation Act on March 5. It was signed into law the following day. That bill included no assistance for state or local governments.
On March 18, Congress passed the $192 billion Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It was signed into law that night. That bill included no assistance for state or local governments.
On March 27, Congress passed the $1.7 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). It was signed into law that evening. That Act included a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, which provided some assistance to cover some COVID related costs for the 50 states, and to any local government with a population of at least 500,000. That limitation denied aid to all 565 New Jersey municipalities and to twelve of the State’s 21 counties.
On April 23, Congress passed the $321 billion Payroll Protection Plan and Healthcare Enhancement Act. It was signed into law the next day. Up until the day it was passed, Congressional negotiators, and our federal partners at the National League of Cities (NLC), were working to include in that bill funding for small and mid-sized local governments, and additional, flexible funding for the States. But the final compromise included no assistance for state or local governments.
And last week, the Payroll Protection Plan was extended until August 8.
All of those bills addressed important priorities. But none of them prioritized the impact of the pandemic on municipalities.
Throughout this crisis, New Jersey’s Congressional Delegation has played a leading role in ongoing efforts to send a lifeline to New Jersey municipalities. All local governments, regardless of population, urgently need direct federal funding to continue to fight COVID-19 and protect their residents through the summer and beyond. The citizens of small towns matter just as much as the citizens of big counties, and New Jersey municipal employees contribute at least as much to society as private sector workers.
Please thank Senators Menendez and Booker and your District’s Representative in the House for their efforts on our behalf. And please reach out to your business community and to your non-profit service providers. Ask them to join your calls for direct and flexible local aid.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x121.