Menendez: COVID Stimulus Must Prioritize Most in Need
Menendez: COVID Stimulus Must Prioritize Most in Need
Senator visits local food pantry where demand is up as federal unemployment benefits, eviction protections expire
PATERSON, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today visited CUMAC, the largest anti-hunger organization in Passaic County, to insist that any new federal COVID-19 stimulus package prioritize the most vulnerable and those most in need during the pandemic. The plan put forth by Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cuts federal unemployment benefits, fails to extend critical eviction and foreclosure protections, and offers zero additional funding for critical nutrition programs or to help frontline states and communities maintain essential services to further assist local residents.
“Republicans in Washington continue to waste precious time arguing amongst themselves over what to cut versus what to provide as people needlessly suffer in the midst of a pandemic,” said Sen. Menendez. “I and my fellow Democrats are demanding more. The American people are demanding more, and they need our help.”
Sen. Menendez was joined by Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh and CUMAC Executive Director Mark Dinglasan.
“This is not just a time for compassion, it’s a time for action,” said Mayor Sayegh. “I don’t know what Paterson would do if it weren’t for Senator Menendez advocating for direct aid to our cities. Our budgets wouldn’t be able to sustain any more losses. What has to happen now is for every American, who has compassion for our country, is to take action. And we stand in solidary with Senator Menendez today to say that his [SMART Fund] must be passed by Congress because it’s the American thing to do.”
“CUMAC has been in pandemic relief mode for 22 straight weeks. We have not closed or reduced our hours, and our team has risen to meet the needs of Paterson and Passaic County,” said Mark Dinglasan. “There’s an important tenant that I want to share with everybody, that we at CUMAC live by: ending hunger has nothing to do with giving people food. Fighting food insecurity is about giving people hope and making sure they have equitable access to basic needs a services. CUMAC lives and breathes this belief.”
With millions of Americans dealing with food insecurity or going hungry during the pandemic, Sen. Menendez has pushed for any new stimulus package to include a boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. He urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow New Jersey SNAP recipients to use their benefits to make online purchases, make it easier for people in need of food assistance to get support from food banks, and for low-income students to access meals during the pandemic.
To highlight the stark contrast in priorities, the senator noted that Leader McConnell’s proposal allows businesses to fully write off so-called “three, martini lunches” to wine and dine clients, while providing no additional assistance to Americans going hungry.
“But that says all you need to know about Mitch McConnell’s priorities and why we’re stuck in this mess,” Sen. Menendez continued. “In the midst of a national pandemic and economic crisis, we must focus our limited resources on the most vulnerable and the people and places who need the help most. No one should be getting rich off the suffering of others.”
Sen. Menendez and other Democrats understand that it’ll take time for jobs to fully return and have proposed extending the $600 a week in expanded unemployment benefits through January, but in their effort to cut those benefits, Senate Republicans allowed them to expire last Friday.
Sen. Menendez called on the Trump Administration to address the impending unemployment crisis long before the extended federal benefits ended. He also called for greater federal funding for states to update archaic unemployment systems and pressed the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure every eligible worker receives the unemployment benefits they deserve.
The Senate Republican plan also fails to provide additional support for state and local governments, nor extend the federal ban on evictions, which expired July 24, or foreclosure protections, which lapse at the end of August.
Sen. Menendez is fighting to include his bipartisan SMART Act in any stimulus package. The bill would deliver $500 billion in flexible funding to frontline states, counties and municipalities, prevent massive tax hikes, service cuts and the layoffs of first responders, teachers, nurses, public health and other essential workers.
In addition to fighting to extend federal housing protections, Sen. Menendez introduced legislation that would ensure low and middle-income homebuyers have fair access to credit during the pandemic. He went to the Senate Floor in July to highlight his $1.2 billion bill to ensure federally-assisted senior housing facilities have the necessary resources to protect residents during the pandemic, and his bill that would expand access to critical information and counseling to help homeowners avoid default, reduce debt, and protect their credit scores. He’s also called on the Trump Administration to enforce bans on housing evictions for the duration of the crisis.
Sen. Menendez has cosponsored the Housing Assistance Fund to provide $75 billion in targeted assistance to keep people in their homes while they search for new employment or wait to get back to work, and the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act, which would provide $100 billion to help families pay rent and help property owners maintain safe and healthy housing.