Biden signs $1.9T COVID-relief bill. What’s in it for NJ

Daniel J. Munoz//March 11, 2021//

Biden signs $1.9T COVID-relief bill. What’s in it for NJ

Daniel J. Munoz//March 11, 2021//

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President Joe Biden quickly signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act on March 11, a day after Congress sent it to his desk. The stimulus package is aimed at getting the nation out of the pandemic and kickstarting its post-COVID economic recovery.

Biden, at a brief bill-signing in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, said the bill is “about rebuilding the backbone of this country.”

The measure includes tens of billions of dollars that will go to New Jersey and the people living in it, according to a joint statement from the offices of senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, both Democrats.

Nearly 3.7 million New Jerseyans would be eligible for the $1,400 direct payments, meaning a total of $9.6 billion in stimulus checks would go out the door to state residents, their offices estimated.

An estimated 268,000 people in the state are dependent on federal COVID-relief jobless benefits – like a 13-week extension and unemployment for freelancers and part-time workers, which now continues until September. Those programs had been slated to expire on March 13 without a federal extension. And the weekly $300 of federal unemployment bonuses continues through Sept. 6.

New Jersey is getting roughly $6.4 billion to help bolster the state’s finances, the two offices said. Those funds could go towards covering the costs of the state’s response to the pandemic, or towards paying off the more than $3 billion the Murphy administration has borrowed.

“For us at state government, the anticipation of more than $6 billion in federal support will give us additional degrees of freedom in meeting the many needs of our residents within the new budget I proposed,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during a March 10 COVID-19 press briefing.”

His proposed $45 billion spending plan for next year does not yet count on the infusion of any additional funds beyond what came out of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act last year.

“This legislation invests… direct aid to state and local governments across America reeling from the enormous costs of responding to the worst pandemic in a century,” Menendez said in a March 6 statement.

There’s another $1.8 billion for the state’s 21 counties and $1.7 billion split among its 565 municipalities.

“This is a big positive deal for New Jersey,” Murphy added two days later. “There’s no other way to put it.”

There would be an estimated $895 million for the state’s colleges and universities, which have seen revenue crater with their campuses shut down. NJ Transit, which has seen ridership plummet during the stay-at-home orders and work-from-home mandates, is getting an estimated $2 billion, according to the two senator’s offices.

Air travel has dropped off during the pandemic as millions of Americans remain home rebound. And so Newark Liberty International Airport would get $164 million in relief, while Atlantic City International Airport would get $6.4 million and the Trenton-Mercer Airport would get $5.8 million.

The relief packages triple the amount someone can claim under the earned income tax credit, drops the minimum wage for claimants from 25 to 19 years of age and eliminates an upper age limit. Both offices estimate another 354,000 New Jerseyans would qualify for the federal tax break as a result.

Tom Bracken, president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said in a March 10 statement that the relief measure “helps New Jersey in many ways, providing vital aid to those impacted by the pandemic.”