Senator Menendez & Others Want FEMA to Cease NJ Cost Sharing for Emergency Coronavirus Funding

NEWARK, N.J. – On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Congressman Tom Malinowski (N.J.-07) led the New Jersey congressional delegation’s call to President Trump, urging him to waive the local cost share for all COVID-19-related assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Typically, FEMA grants through Direct Federal Assistance and Public Assistance for Emergency Protective Measures during a Major Disaster Declaration come with a federal cost share of 75%, meaning state and local governments must pay 25% of the cost.

“FEMA is authorized to increase its federal cost share to 100% of response and recovery costs ‘if warranted by the needs of the disaster.’  If there ever was a time when a 100% cost share was warranted, now is that time,” the lawmakers stated in a letter to the president.  “Unfortunately, cases have only increased and the worst is likely still to come.  Boosting the federal cost share will allow state and local governments to concentrate on controlling and mitigating the outbreak of COVID-19 without being limited by growing costs and strained budgets.”

The bipartisan delegation letter comes in support of Gov. Phil Murphy’s formal request and was cosigned by Sen. Cory Booker and Reps. Donald Norcross (N.J.-01), Jeff Van Drew (N.J.-02), Andy Kim (N.J.-03), Chris Smith (N.J.-04), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.-05), Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.-06), Albio Sires (N.J.-08), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.09), Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.-10), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.-11), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.-12).

“We urge you to swiftly approve Governor Murphy’s request for a federal cost share waiver for all COVID-19 response and recovery actions in New Jersey,” the letter continued.  “During these challenging times, we need to come together and leverage all resources, at every level of government, to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In explaining the urgent need, the delegation cited increased costs to the state and local governments to respond to the coronavirus outbreak at a time when tax revenues are down significantly due to aggressive social distancing measures and mandatory non-essential business closures.

The request is not unprecedented.  After Superstorm Sandy battered New Jersey in 2012, FEMA increased the federal cost share above 75% to repair damaged public buildings and infrastructure through.

Earlier this month, Sens. Menendez and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) co-led a bipartisan group of 23 senators, including Cory Booker, urging President Trump to waive local cost sharing for FEMA emergency grants in response to COVID-19.  The senators argued the strain on the American people and local and state governments during this public health emergency is no different from dealing with the impact and aftermath of a natural disaster.

Last week, President Trump formally included New Jersey in the COVID-19 Major Disaster Declaration at the request of the entire federal delegation and Gov. Murphy, which makes the state eligible to apply for $45 billion in emergency FEMA funding included in the recently passed $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

Full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here:

March 31, 2020

 

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

Governor Murphy has formally requested a federal cost share waiver for all COVID-19 related response and recovery actions in New Jersey.  Our state is now battling the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the nation, and we are writing to urge you to approve this request to ensure New Jersey has the resources it needs to combat this pandemic.

 

We appreciate the measure you took last week in declaring the COVID-19 pandemic a major disaster for New Jersey, which allows FEMA to assist communities through Direct Federal Assistance and Public Assistance for Emergency Protective Measures at federal cost share of 75%.  Unfortunately, cases have only increased and the worst is likely still to come.  Boosting the federal cost share will allow state and local governments to concentrate on controlling and mitigating the outbreak of COVID-19 without being limited by growing costs and strained budgets. 

 

This crisis has created dual financial pressures that have squeezed the state on both the revenue and expenditure side of the ledger.  The aggressive action the state took to impose a mandatory shutdown of all non-essential businesses has undoubtedly helped to slow the spread of the virus, but it has also caused state and local revenues to plummet.  Likewise, the massive response costs the state has incurred on expenses ranging from purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) to adding more hospital bed space, are immediately necessary, but also very expensive.  These costs will only increase as cases continue to grow and our healthcare providers run precariously low on standard medical equipment. FEMA is authorized to increase its federal cost share to 100% of response and recovery costs “if warranted by the needs of the disaster”.  If there ever was a time when a 100% cost share was warranted, now is that time. 

 

We urge you to swiftly approve Governor Murphy’s request for a federal cost share waiver for all COVID-19 response and recovery actions in New Jersey.  During these challenging times, we need to come together and leverage all resources, at every level of government, to end the COVID-19 pandemic.  We appreciate your consideration of the request.

 

Sincerely,

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