Menendez Tries to be the Bearer of Good News, with Bhalla at His Side


HOBOKEN – This really is no time for a victory lap, but Mayor Ravi Bhalla was feeling pretty good today.
With Bob Menendez on hand to talk about $2 million in federal money coming to the city to help small businesses, Bhalla couldn’t resist talking about how good a job Hoboken has done dealing with the pandemic.

He reminded reporters that the city was perhaps the first in the nation to shut down bars and restaurants, of which there are many in Hoboken.

“Our actions helped pave the way for other leaders,” he said.

Menendez then took over, explaining that small businesses in the city – those with no more than 25 employees – are eligible to seek grants of up to $20,000 from the $2 million allotment coming to the city via the federal CARES Act.

These funds can be used for many different things – rent, mortgage payments, paying off debt and paying workers.

In some ways, this was a “normal” press event.

Besides Menendez and the mayor, Tom DeGise, the Hudson County executive, was on hand along with a number of local officials. But partly because of the pandemic. no public event is ever normal.

The speakers were spaced more than 6-feet apart, as were reporters, making for an event that ranged over an area the size of half a football field. All this happened underneath the viaduct that connects Hoboken with Union City in the north end of town. So the speakers had to compete with the rumble of traffic from above.

Menendez also brought up a proposed $500 billion bill to provide funds to state and local governments.

The funds will be awarded based on such things as infection rate and tax revenue loss attributed to COVID-19.

While the toll the virus is taking on towns throughout the nation is well documented, Menendez has been talking about this bill for at least two months. But so far, to no avail. There are three Republican co-sponsors, including Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who joined Menendez for a conference call to hype the bill a while back.

The Senate returns to Washington later this month and Menendez said he’s optimistic there will be enough GOP support to pass it.

That remains to be seen. And in sort of an overall observation about the federal government’s COVID-19 response, Menendez said he “expected more from the Trump Administration.”

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