Some of the top elected officials in New Jersey and the state’s Congressional delegation on Tuesday said that a proposed $908 billion federal COVID-relief bill is a welcome short-term proposal, but is far from what business owners would need to survive a second wave and sluggish economic recovery
Congress and the White House are aiming to have a second round of federal relief, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, ahead of the federal spending deadline this Friday, or at the very latest before they head home for winter break next week.
Washington is likely to bundle the new CARES Act and federal appropriations bill into an omnibus spending package.
That package would include small business relief, extended federal unemployment benefits, and aid for state and local governments who have seen their tax revenue evaporate amid the global pandemic.
Gov. Phil Murphy, at a Monday afternoon press conference in Trenton, said he was happy that Washington was finally moving ahead, but said the nation would need much closer to $3 trillion.
“I’m grateful that there’s real discussion about a deal,” the governor said on Monday. “I think the need in the fullness of time, and the fullness of time is measured in a few months here at most, is probably two to three times that, maybe even four times that. “This is plus or minus, in my opinion, a three-ish plus trillion dollar moment.”
Members of the state’s Congressional delegation, at a Tuesday morning virtual press conference hosted by New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, largely agreed, contending that this $908 billion deal would be short-term to help business owners survive the winter.
“2021 is going to be a very long and tough year for our economy,” Sen. Cory Booker, a Newark Democrat, said on Tuesday.
The focus going into the Biden administration come Jan. 20, 2021, will be “about how are we going to have a long-term vision for getting the support we need to get our economy out of this trench.”
“This is just an emergency short-term package that we must pass, to help our restaurants, to help our families that are hurting,” added Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Bergen County Democrat. “
This CARES Act would most likely help the nation survive this “short-term emergency period,” during the nationwide COVID-19 surge, and “to get us into the new administration for more action, which will obviously be necessary.”
Indeed, daily cases of COVID-19 have hit all-time record-highs. While that increase is partially due to vastly ramped up testing capacity compared to what New Jersey had in the spring, metrics such as hospitalizations, ventilator-usage, critical care patient count and daily fatalities have all moved in alarming directions.
Murphy has been hesitant to reintroduce the widespread business closures and state shutdown seen in the spring. During that, restaurants, casinos, malls, theaters, indoor entertainment, gyms, salons and non-essential retail all had to shutter their doors.
“If you shutter something completely, you’re driving this into underground activity, behind closed doors, private settings,” the governor said Monday. “If we think we can control that manageable risk in an enforceable space such as a restaurant, as opposed to [a] living room, that is our preference.”
Gottheimer is the Democrat co-chair for the 50-member House Problem Solvers Caucus, which initially floated the $908 billion compromise bill. In October, the Trump administration floated a $1.8 trillion CARES Act, but that was rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and faced uncertain prospects in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.
Rep. Chris Smith, one of the state’s two Republicans in Congress, largely agreed, saying on Tuesday that “we need a larger remedy to all of this,” saying that he would hope for a “much more robust bill that’s in the trillion-dollar range.”
And Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Union County Democrat elected in 2018, admitted that the proposed CARES ACt “is not enough” but that it “does at least some of everything that we need,” like small business aid and relief for “our folks who lost their jobs” and “state and local governments, enough to get through the winter.”