U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the select bipartisan team negotiating the bill, issued the following statement on the agreement of a $2 trillion federal stimulus package to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic:
“I am relieved that bipartisanship prevailed at a time when the stakes have never been higher, and the lives of so many Americans are on the line.
“At the start of these negotiations, there was a strong possibility that the Senate majority would push through a trillion-dollar spending package that failed to shore up our fight against COVID-19, abandoned states like New Jersey on the frontlines of this pandemic, and left small businesses and working families behind while big corporations pocketed massive bailouts.
“Fortunately, we fought back, we stood our ground, and today we have a bipartisan deal that gives New Jersey and the nation a fighting chance at defeating COVID-19 and restoring the promise of our economy.
“First and foremost, this package will deliver billions of dollars of aid and loans to hospitals so that our doctors, nurses, and frontline health care workers have the resources they need to conduct testing, treat the sick, and ultimately save lives. The wealth of our nation hinges on the health of our people, and there’s simply no path to long-term economic prosperity that does not begin with defeating COVID-19.
“Secondly, this legislation responds to the urgent needs of states like New Jersey, which has already spent billions of dollars battling the nation’s second-highest number of COVID-19 cases. I’m proud to have fought for the state stabilization funds in this deal, which will ensure New Jersey’s state and local governments are not bankrupted by the battle against a global pandemic while maintaining essential critical services, like emergency response, during this critical time.
“Finally, this bipartisan package comes to the aid of small businesses and workers suffering as a result of the drastic, but vital social distancing measures we must take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and ultimately save lives. Direct payments will help working families weather this storm, and I’m pleased that Democrats successfully fought to ensure low-income Americans aren’t shortchanged in the middle of a national crisis.
“We also secured major improvements to unemployment benefits. For the first time ever, employers 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. This will not only keep working people afloat, but also ensure they have jobs to return to once this crisis is behind us.
“We also won an unprecedented $377 billion pool of economic aid for America’s small businesses. These low-cost and forgivable loans will help New Jersey’s restaurants, retailers, and other local businesses make payroll, pay rent, protect jobs and ultimately drive our recovery.
“Congress had an obligation not just to respond to this crisis quickly but to do so in a responsible way. When spending a trillion-plus dollars of American taxpayer money, we cannot afford to get it wrong and we must always stand up for what’s right.
“There is much more work to do to ensure the safety and economic wellbeing of our residents and communities, and I stand ready to fight for New Jersey’s priorities in Washington.”
BROAD PACKAGE DETAILS
· $260 billion for workers. An extended and expanded Unemployment Insurance program increases the maximum unemployment benefit amount by $600 per week above one’s base unemployment compensation benefit through July and ensures that workers who are laid-off or out of work, on average, will receive their full pay for four months. It ensures that workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with self-employed and workers in the gig economy.
· Direct payments to families. $1,200 for most individuals, $2,400 for couples and $500 per child.
· $377 billion for small business. A priority for Sen. Menendez, these funds would be used for forgivable loans and grants to small businesses and non-profits so they can maintain their existing workforce and help pay other expenses during this crisis, like rent, a mortgage or utilities.
· $150 billion for hospitals, health care facilities. A priority for Sen. Menendez, this includes a massive new grant program for hospitals and health care providers, personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, new construction to house patients, emergency operation centers and more. Additional funding is also dedicated to increased Medicare payments to all hospitals and providers to ensure that they receive the funding they need during this crisis, and new investments in our country’s Strategic National Stockpile, surge capacity and medical research into COVID-19.
· $150 billion state and local government stabilization fund. This critical funding will be a temporary lifeline to states and communities that are seeing huge budget holes that have been created by the economic slowdown and response to COVID-19. While more work needs to be done, this $150 billion fund is a strong down payment that will keep communities going and ensure they have the resources to respond to this public health emergency.
· $230 billion “emergency appropriations.” Funding ranges from billions for hard-hit airports, increased aid to municipalities, funding for child care, nutrition for seniors, housing assistance, support for local school and colleges, and for the National Guard to support to the hardest hit States and territories.
o $25 billion for transit systems. These dollars can be used to supplement revenues due to steep declines in ridership and to cover additional costs of coronavirus-related cleaning products and labor.
o $400 million in election assistance. Funding for the states to help prepare for the 2020 election cycle, including to increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and increase the safety of voting in-person by providing additional voting facilities and more poll workers.
o $7 billion for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs. Funding will help low-income and working class Americans avoid evictions and minimize any impacts caused by loss of employment, child care, or other unforeseen circumstances related to COVID-19. Funding also supports additional assistance and for people experiencing homelessness.
o $30 billion for grants to provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students and support the on-going functionality of school districts and institutions.
o $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus.
o $6.5 billion in Federal funding for CDBG, the Economic Development Administration, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help mitigate the local economic crisis and rebuild impacted industries such as tourism or manufacturing supply chains.
o $10 billion in grants to help our nation’s airports as the aviation sector grapples with the most steep and potentially sustained decline in air travel in history.
o $4.3 billion to CDC to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus, including for the purchase of personal protective equipment; laboratory testing to detect positive cases; infection control and mitigation at the local level to prevent the spread of the virus; and other public health preparedness and response activities.
o $1.4 billion for deployments of the National Guard to support up to 20,000 members of the National Guard, under the direction of the governors of each state, for the next six months in order to bolster state and local response efforts.
o $19.57 billion for VA to provide equipment, tests, and support services necessary to provide veterans with the additional care they need at facilities nationwide.
o $45 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund. More than doubling the available funding, to provide for the immediate needs of state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as private non-profits performing critical and essential services, to protect citizens and help them recover from the overwhelming effects of COVID-19. Reimbursable activities may include medical response, personal protective equipment, National Guard deployment, coordination of logistics, safety measures, and community services nationwide.
o $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile supplies of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which are distributed to State and local health agencies, hospitals and other healthcare entities facing shortages during emergencies.
o $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to bolster domestic supply chains, enabling industry to quickly ramp up production of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other urgently needed medical supplies, and billions dollars more for federal, state, and local health agencies to purchase such equipment.
Sen. Menendez and other Democrats fought to achieve the following improvements from the original bill put forth Sunday by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):
- $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for operating costs once a small business or non-profit has applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
- $17 billion for SBA to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.
- Allow rent, mortgage and utility costs to be eligible for SBA loan forgiveness.
- $30 billion in emergency education funding and $25 billion in emergency transit funding.
- Four months of enhanced unemployment insurance, instead of 3 months.
- $55 billion increase in support for our healthcare system.
- $150 billion for a state and local Coronavirus Relief fund.
- $30 billion in additional funding for the Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to state and local governments, as well as private nonprofits providing critical and essential services.
- Ban stock buybacks for the term of the government assistance plus one year on any company receiving a government loan.
- Establish robust worker protections attached to all federal loans for businesses.
- Create real-time public reporting of Treasury transactions under the Act, including terms of loans, investments or other assistance to corporations.
- Add a retention tax credit for employers to encourage businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis.
- Provide income tax exclusion for individuals who are receiving student loan repayment assistance from their employer.
- Eliminated $3 billion bailout for big oil.
- Eliminated “secret bailout” provision that would have allowed bailouts to corporations to be concealed for six months.
- Saved hundreds of thousands of airline industry jobs and prohibited airlines from stock buybacks and CEO bonuses.