Murphy Says Fiscal Disaster ‘Not Months Away’

Gov. Phil Murphy underscored the severity of COVID-19’s impact on New Jersey’s economy at today’s state press conference, saying “a fiscal disaster is not months away; hard and unpalatable decisions are being made in the here and now. They will be on our doorstep in just a few weeks.” Murphy cited the fact that several New Jersey cities are currently preparing for layoffs.

Echoing others’ sentiments, Murphy added, “direct aid to states … is the most pressing of issues. And it is increasingly one that knows no one political party. In fact, it is an issue that is uniting both Democrats and Republicans.”

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez attended today’s press conference, touting bipartisan legislation that both he and Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana have proposed: the State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) fund would provide $500 billion in flexible funding, with – Menendez said – “Priority given to areas of our country with the greatest need, based on COVID-19 infection rates and lost revenues due to the economic fallout.”

He additionally said the SMART fund would retroactively overturn the U.S. Treasury’s “restrictive guidance, giving states like New Jersey maximum flexibility to respond to its most urgent needs.” He added, however, that conversations that have already occurred with the U.S. Treasury should allow previous monies to be used “pretty successfully.”

Menendez asserted, “But, this will guarantee it.”

Testing and Contact Tracing

Menendez also highlighted the need for widespread testing and contact tracing, saying, “No matter how quickly we want to rejoin our society, open our economy and return to normal, the reality is that folks won’t have the consumer confidence – which is the essence of our economy … they will not return until New Jerseysans know that their risk of contracting COVID-19 has been dramatically mitigated when they go to a store, a mall, a restaurant or the public square. No matter how much help [there is] from Washington, that is the only way we are ultimately going to succeed.”

The senator said that in the last stimulus, there was $25 billion set aside for testing across the nation, and related monies should bolster New Jersey’s testing efforts.

He additionally heralded the FDA’s approval of Rutgers University’s at-home saliva test, and also that another $11 million in federal funding can be used to expand testing at 24 federally-qualified health centers.

He added, “But, the federal government needs to do more – a lot more – if we are going to successfully defeat COVID-19, and move our economy forward.”

Public Health Update

New Jersey leaders announced 1,493 new positive COVID-19 test results today, as hospitalizations fell to 4,195, with 1,255 patients in intensive care. There were 59 COVID-19 deaths announced today for a cumulative total of 9,310 fatalities.

Murphy explained, “The number of new cases has shown continued moderation, as you can see, and we are seeing real progress in declining positivity rates.”

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