Booker, Menendez Urge Administration to Swiftly Unlock Emergency Funds to Help State, Local Governments

Booker, Menendez Urge Administration to Swiftly Unlock Emergency Funds to Help State, Local Governments

   

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the heels of the third confirmed case of Coronavirus in New Jersey, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) tonight urged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to move swiftly to unlock emergency funds that were specifically allocated for state and local governments in the $8.5 billion supplemental package that Congress passed yesterday. That package earmarked a minimum of $950 million for states, localities, territories, and tribal entities, $475 million of which, according to the language of the law, must be distributed within 30 days. Sen. Menendez and Booker urged HHS to distribute this funding “as soon as possible to help contain the novel Coronavirus.” 

“As you know, state, local, territorial, and tribal health departments are on the front lines responding to COVID-19,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “They need the funding provided under this law immediately in order to address this global health threat, including for activities like coordinating medical transportation, housing arrangements, and other needs.”

Today’s letter comes on the heels of the third confirmed case of Coronavirus in New Jersey, announced earlier today. 

Dear Secretary Azar:

We respectfully request that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) work to expeditiously award funding to states, localities, territories and tribal entities for their preparedness and response activities regarding the novel coronavirus.

This week, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, a supplemental spending package that provides resources for federal, state, and local governments to respond to the novel coronavirus. The law provides at least $950 million in grants and direct funding to  states, localities, territories, and tribal entities.  Of this, the law requires $475 million be allocated within 30 days of enactment.

However, it is imperative that HHS allocate funding as soon as possible to help mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. Nationally, 14 people have died of the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, and there are over 240 cases of COVID-19 throughout the country. This includes in New Jersey, which reported its first presumptive-positive case of novel coronavirus on March 4th and now has three presumptive-positive cases.[1] The potential impact of the novel coronavirus will be far reaching. Beyond the public health concerns, the outbreak has the potential to shutter businesses, disrupt transportation, and cause food shortages as well as other significant local and national impacts. As you know, state, local, territorial, and tribal health departments are on the front lines responding to COVID-19. They need the funding provided under this law immediately in order to address this global health threat, including for activities like coordinating medical transportation, housing arrangements, and other needs.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that states, localities, territories and tribal entities have the resources they need to prepare for and respond to the novel coronavirus.

Sincerely,



[1] Attrino, Anthony. “N.J. coronavirus update: Fort Lee man, 32, is first to test positive for virus in state.”NJ.com, March 5, 2020. https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/03/nj-coronavirus-update-fort-lee-man-32-is-first-to-test-positive-for-virus-in-state.html