Menendez, Joined on Senate Floor by Bipartisan SMART Fund Cosponsors, Urges Action to Help States, Communities

Menendez, Joined on Senate Floor by Bipartisan SMART Fund Cosponsors, Urges Action to Help States, Communities

Senator leads bipartisan colloquy calling on Congress to pass robust, direct, flexible funding to help state, local governments fight COVID-19 & avert mass layoffs, cuts to essential services

 

   

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today lead a bipartisan colloquy on the Senate Floor with cosponsors of his SMART Fund to call on Congress to provide frontline state and local governments robust, flexible funding to help them address rising costs to contain COVID-19 and lost revenues as a result of the pandemic.  Sen. Menendez was joined on the Senate Floor by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).  The SMART Fund is also cosponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).

“I’m proud of the bipartisan coalition we’ve built, and I want to thank each of you for your work and commitment to rebuilding our communities,” Sen. Menendez said.  “Unless we act soon, we will see mass layoffs, devastating tax increases, and a breakdown in public safety and essential services.  And that is true for every state, county, city, and town in the country.  The State and Municipal Assistance for Response and Transition, or SMART Act, is the bold, bipartisan, and commonsense solution we need to give our communities a fighting chance and stop the economy from free-falling.”

Earlier this week, Sens. Menendez and Cassidy introduced the State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act, which targets $500 billion in emergency funding to every state, county and community in the country, while prioritizing assistance to the areas with the greatest need.  The SMART Fund is the only bipartisan path forward to providing states and communities badly needed, direct federal assistance.

Sen. Menendez’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“M. President, I rise today to engage in a colloquy with Senator Cassidy, Senator Collins and my fellow Senator from New Jersey, Senator Booker.

“As our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, our state, county and municipal governments have been on the frontlines, taking the lead role in responding to this crisis. 

“As a result, they’ve been squeezed on both sides of the ledger, spending billions of dollars in unforeseen costs on emergency response, while watching as revenues dry up due to necessary “stay-at-home” orders and the closure of non-essential businesses.

“The emergency protective measures have been effective at flattening the curve and have no doubt saved thousands of lives, but they’ve also come with a cost.

“All revenue sources are down.  Sales tax revenue has plummeted with businesses closed. 

“Highway trust funds won’t have the resources to do basic road maintenance.

“Downtown parking meters are going empty due to people observing social distancing. 

“Building permit and municipal court fees have fallen off.

“Unless we act soon, we will see mass layoffs, devastating tax increases, and a breakdown in public safety and essential services.

“And that is true for every state, county, city, and town in the country.

“The State and Municipal Assistance for Response and Transition, or SMART Act, is the bold, bipartisan, and commonsense solution we need to give our communities a fighting chance and stop the economy from free-falling.

“It provides $500 billion in flexible, federal dollars that will help our communities dramatically expand the testing capacity and contact tracing we need to contain the virus—a necessary step to restoring consumer confidence and restart the economy.

“It will help stave of massive layoffs, tax hikes and deep, painful cuts to essential services.

“It will keep our police officers, firefighters, public health workers, teachers and other essential employees on the job during this critical time.

“Because it’s not JUST about defeating COVID-19.  We still need to keep our streets safe, our children learning, the trash picked up, the roads maintained, and the buses and trains running on time.

“I hear some of my colleagues speak from this floor, calling not for unity, but for division.

“They callously ignore the pleas for help from their fellow Americans, comforted by the selfish, but mistaken belief their communities are immune to the fiscal Armageddon facing our communities.

“Let me be clear: When your revenues drops 30 percent overnight, it really doesn’t matter how fiscally responsible or conservative your state budget is.  No one can prepare for that.

“This is not a red state or blue state issue. This is a red, white and blue issue.  It’s an American priority.

“In December, 1862, during the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln wrote the following message to Congress:

“’In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.’

“I believe that history will look kindly upon those who stood for unity and compromise over demagoguery and obstinacy…

“Those who put the well-being of the country over scoring partisan points…

“Those who stuck their necks out and took a political risk for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.

“I’m proud of the bipartisan coalition we’ve built, and I want to thank each of you for your work and commitment to rebuilding our communities—Senator Cassidy, Senator Hyde-Smith, Senator Manchin, Senator Collins, and my partner in New Jersey, Senator Booker.

“With that, I turn to my friend from Louisiana, a distinguished Senator who exemplifies these qualities and has been an incredible partner in crafting this legislation and building this coalition over the past month.  Senator Cassidy.”

 

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