Murphy pleased with $2T stimulus bill but says more needed later
While it’s not clear how much of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package responding to the novel coronavirus will come directly into New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy is pleased with the details – though says more help will be needed later.
An expected vote in Congress was delayed Wednesday, as senators debated the details of some proposed changes to unemployment benefits. But bipartisan congressional leaders and President Donald Trump have called for the bill’s quick passage.
“It feels like it’s got bipartisan support, and God willing it will get through both chambers and signed by the president because God knows we need it,” Murphy said.
Murphy and the governors of Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania had estimated the four states alone needed $100 billion in help from the federal government. The total amount to all states and localities is $150 billion.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted the aid package as inadequate for his state’s needs, but Murphy reacted differently.
“This is a big step in the right direction. Is it everything we want? It is not. But I’m in the category of let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Murphy said.
“I was in the and have been in the $3-plus trillion range,” he said. “To be able to get $2 trillion in a matter of days in this day and age with bipartisan support, God willing – it isn’t everything. Let there be no doubt about it. We will likely need more. But I think it’s a big step in the right direction, and we’ll take it.”
The bill provides direct payments to Americans of $1,200 for most individuals, $2,400 for couples and $500 per child. Payments would start phasing out for individuals with incomes over $75,000 or couples over $150,000 and disappear entirely at $99,000 or $198,000.
It includes $260 billion for extended unemployment benefits and increases the maximum benefit by $600 per week through July. Workers who are laid off, on average, will receive full pay for four months, said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. Self-employed and gig economy workers will be covered.
It includes $377 billion for small businesses, including forgivable loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofits to maintain their existing workforce.
It includes $150 billion for hospitals and health care providers, including personal and protective equipment and testing supplies. That section also increases Medicare payments to all hospitals and providers.
Another $230 billion in emergency appropriations includes $25 billion for transit systems, of which NJ Transit hopes to receive $1.25 billion; $400 million for election assistance, including help to states to expand vote-by-mail programs; and $30 billion to K-12 schools and colleges.
"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," Menendez said.
"This bipartisan bill has improved dramatically in the last few days, and while it’s still far from perfect, it’s desperately needed right now to save lives, slow the spread of this COVID-19 pandemic, and provide relief to American families," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said on Twitter.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at email@example.com.