Gov. Phil Murphy showed cautiously optimistic support for the $2 trillion federal stimulus package and the aid it would mean for New Jersey, despite much harsher criticisms from his counterpart in Albany: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“It isn’t everything,” Murphy said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference. “Let there be no doubt about it, we’ll likely need more. But I think it’s a big step in the right direction … Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
The federal stimulus package – agreed upon by congressional lawmakers from both parties and the Trump administration – would pump $2 trillion into the private sector, federal programs, individual citizens, and state and local governments. The bill is quickly moving through Congress – it was passed by the Senate late Wednesday evening – and will likely receive U.S. President Donald Trump’s signature.
“It will help our hospitals financially,” the governor said in a radio appearance at WCBS 880 earlier in the day. “It will help the folks who have lost their jobs. It will help small businesses. It’s desperately needed. There’s nothing like the federal government coming in to play an outsize role.”
Governors across the country, including Murphy, have ordered the mass closure of tens of thousands of businesses in order to stop the COVID-19 spread, which has ground commerce to a halt, decimated tax revenue and blown multi-billion-dollar holes in state budgets.
“It would really be terrible for the state of New York,” said Cuomo at a press briefing early Wednesday. He contended that his state would ultimately receive $3.8 billion in state aid, out of revenue shortfalls projected to be as high as $15 billion.
“That is a drop in the bucket,” Cuomo said. “This doesn’t do it.”
Murphy over the weekend indicated that New Jersey’s revenue shortfalls could be upwards of $20 billion, which would need to be shored up by the massive federal bailout.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have requested a combined $100 billion.
“It’s a big boost,” Murphy added. “Again, not everything, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
The measure calls for $150 billion in state and local government aid to help governments plug any growing budget holes.
Earlier this week, the New Jersey treasury announced it would freeze $920 million in spending through June 30, in anticipation of a “significant” nosedive in tax revenue across the board.
‘Big help, quick help’
Under the deal moving through Congress, the federal government would set up a $377 billion financing program for businesses hit hard by the outbreak. That would include a combination of grants and forgivable and low-interest loans to help with expenses such as rent, mortgage, utilities, and to keep workers on the payroll.
According to USA Today, it also includes a tax credit for those businesses that do keep workers on the payroll.
Joblessness has soared in recent weeks, amid mass business closures.
There would be $260 billion for expanding the federal unemployment insurance program so that workers who have lost their jobs would receive an additional $600 above their base unemployment compensation. That would last through July, or four additional months, during which time those workers would receive their entire regular take-home pay. It would also apply to self-employed and “gig economy” freelance workers.
“[E]mployers will be able to furlough workers instead of outright laying them off, enabling them to keep their health benefits while receiving an additional four months of enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government,” U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, said in a statement.
The bill also provides for direct payments to families: $1,200 for the majority of people, $2,400 for couples and $500 per child. The full amount is available for individuals who earn up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income, and then it is reduced for anyone earning up to $99,000. Anyone earning more than that would not receive benefits.
A married couple that jointly files would be eligible for the full amount if they earn up to $150,000 a year, a reduced amount if they earn up to $198,000 a year, and nothing for anyone earning over $198,000.
The deal also lets students defer student loan payments for six months.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told CNN in an interview that “I think the president said that he would have it out by April 6.”
“Big help, quick help, is on the way,” he said.
The proposal calls for $25 billion toward transit systems across the country, which have seen their ridership decimated as millions of Americans stay at home.
New Jersey Transit is requesting a $1.25 billion federal bailout to keep it afloat through July 2021, after the COVID-19 outbreak cut its ridership by 88 percent.
There would be $10 billion given out to airports and airliners, which have also seen cuts to customers, by the Federal Aviation Administration. Newark Liberty International Airport and the other New York City metro airports have seen a steep drop in the number of flights, leading to layoffs of thousands of workers.
The deal calls for a $500 billion corporate relief program for some of the nation’s largest businesses, granting congressional oversight for how those funds are disbursed. Airline companies and cruise lines – which have been among the hardest hit as travel plummets – would be the likeliest to seek those federal dollars.
Schumer called the entire proposal a “Marshall Plan” for the nation’s health care system.
$150 billion would be available to hospitals and other health care facilities to help them pay for new equipment, testing supplies, and more workers. It also boosts Medicare payments for hospitals that care for COVID-19 patients.