“I am encouraged to hear that after four weeks of negotiations, our partners at the federal level, including New Jersey’s senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, have made significant progress in advancing bipartisan legislation to fund state and local governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. States, counties, and local governments have been on the front lines of the war against coronavirus, but without assistance from the federal level, many will face enormous budgetary shortfalls because of unprecedented revenue loss.
The SMART Fund legislation, introduced by Senator Menendez, will ensure that every county and municipality in the United States has access to appropriate levels of direct, flexible funding. This bipartisan proposal would create a sorely needed $500 billion SMART (State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition) Fund in order to avoid layoffs, tax increases, and cuts to critical government services.
In the weeks since Senator Menendez first introduced this proposal, we have already seen neighboring states take and contemplate significant action regarding personnel and service cuts. In New Jersey, legislation has been sent to the governor’s desk to allow public employees to be furloughed. These funds are critically needed to make up for lost revenue and operational expenses, and to ensure that our residents are not left alone amidst this crisis.
Unfortunately, Senator Mitch McConnell is continuing to signal that he is not interested in helping state and local governments unless that funding is primarily intended for states where the government is controlled by his party. It is shameful that the majority leader is playing politics with disaster funding which is needed to keep our community afloat during a global pandemic. The federal government was not prepared for this catastrophe, but state and local governments have coordinated an unprecedented response to mitigate the worst possible outcomes. Now, we need the federal government to support us as we look to reopen and rebuild our economy.
I am hopeful that Senator McConnell will recognize the error in his judgement as it relates to this bipartisan proposal. Inaction at this juncture will be debilitating to governments nationwide, and ultimately leave our most vulnerable residents even more exposed to future disasters, as well as to the litany of threats that public and civil servants work to dispel on a daily basis. Looking forward, I am incredibly thankful for Senator Menendez’s leadership as we navigate the next phase of this pandemic.”