The more than $6 billion of potential direct federal aid under President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” could take major stress off of New Jersey’s pandemic-hit finances, Gov. Phil Murphy suggested at a March 8 press conference.
“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” the governor added.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package includes $350 billion in state and local aid. According to the Office of Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, the state would get roughly $6.4 billion while county and municipal governments would get a combined $2.9 billion in federal aid.
That proposal had been a frequent target of Republican lawmakers over the past year, with then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and then-President Donald Trump deriding the spending as a “blue-state bail-out.”
Murphy’s $44.8 billion spending proposal for the coming fiscal year does not bank on any further money from the federal government. Still, the worst-case scenarios never materialized for how badly the pandemic would hit the state’s tax revenue.
Administration officials have maintained they cannot yet score any of those hypothetical monies in their budget. But the Murphy administration and other state Democrats maintain that the funds are vital to help finance the state’s economic recovery and vaccination efforts, and long-term financial planning.
“As we face economic and public crises unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes, the American Rescue Plan is an urgently needed and historic investment in the health and financial security of New Jerseyans and people across the country,” U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a Newark Democrat, said in a March 6 statement.
Murphy said in a March 6 statement that the proposed Biden relief measure would “establish a robust vaccination program, boost aid for small businesses, and safely reopen our schools.”
The House of Representatives has to vote on the bill March 9, after the U.S. Senate over the weekend shaved unemployment bonuses from $400 to $300 and extended them to September, removed a $15 national minimum wage and limited eligibility for the $1,400 stimulus checks.
According to Menendez’s office, New Jerseyans would get an estimated $400 million in rental assistance. Amtrak would get $1.7 billion to help offset the costs of cratering public transit and traveling amid the pandemic, and $970 million of that would go toward the Northeast Corridor.
“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.