Governor Phil Murphy this afternoon expressed his frustration with the federal government in the after President Donald Trump yanked the power plug on further pandemic relief-related talks between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
“Shame on Washington and what’s going on right now,” said Murphy, who has routinely savaged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) but mostly stayed clear of President Donald J. Trump, in the name of keeping communiations channels open with the White House.
This time, as he considered the impact in New Jersey of Lost Wages assistance Payments, Murphy did more than simply criticize the embattled incumbent Republican president.
“They weren’t in agreement, Nancy Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin, but they in the room trying to reach an agreement. … The fact that the president has said no more is appalling.
“We’ll take the FEMA money but that $600 benefit should be extended,” Murphy added. “We need a bridge over troubled water.
“Please, Mr. President,” the governor pleaded.
There’s a history here.
“We will always do whatever we can to get more money into the pockets of our unemployed workers,” New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said in August. “But, it’s important to note that this is not an extension of the successful federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided an extra $600 to everyone receiving unemployment. LWA will end as soon as the funds dry up, it excludes some of our lowest-wage earners and part-time workers, and, perhaps most importantly, adds another layer of red tape that workers in need have to cut through.”
Of the states that have applied, 93 percent have sought grants at the $300 level, which the federal government pays, rather than kick in an extra $100, which would have cost New Jersey approximately $80 million a week.
As of August, FEMA had approved 28 states’ applications for $300 payments and 2 states’ applications for $400 payments. One state, South Dakota, has declined to participate.
This new program must be created from scratch, and run separately from New Jersey’s existing state and federal unemployment programs. This is not something New Jersey or any state will be able to do quickly or easily.
“This is not the answer for unemployed workers around the country who have been hit hard and fast by COVID-19. It is our hope that Congress extends the $600 supplement so that workers, especially those in high cost-of-living states like ours, can keep food on the table and a roof over their heads until we can get beyond COVID and they can get back on their feet,” Asaro-Angelo said.
It’s not happening.