PASSAIC, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, today met with health care professionals from North Hudson Community Action Corporation, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), to discuss their efforts in combatting COVID-19, treating their patients and protecting their workers. FQHCs are trusted providers for many in lower-income communities who need access to health care services.
The Senator also discussed the need for a better-coordinated federal response to the COVID-19 outbreak as New Jersey and other states continue to report new cases. As of this morning, New Jersey has reported four presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Bergen County, one in Camden County and one in Hudson County. There are over 500 confirmed cases across the country.
“As I’ve said before, we need a seamless, coordinated federal, state, and local effort. The state is doing all it can. Local health departments and providers like North Hudson Community are doing all they can. But they can’t do it alone,” said Sen. Menendez. “We need the federal government to be on its game. That’s why I will continue to hold the Trump Administration’s feet to the fire to make sure they do everything in their power to protect public health and ultimately, save lives.”
The Senator last week voted in favor of an $8.3 billion coronavirus emergency funding package, which includes $13.86 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support New Jersey’s efforts in combating the coronavirus. This is in addition to the $1.75 million the senator announced last week to reimburse the state’s Department of Health (NJDOH) for its response and preparedness efforts to combat COVID-19.
The emergency funding package includes $100 million to support FQHCs’ efforts in responding to the outbreak; nearly $1 billion for health care preparedness, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies; $1.25 billion to combat this public health threat overseas to prevent and respond to wider spread of the virus; more than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics; and reimbursement of up to $136 million to important health care programs.
Sen. Menendez also decried the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine access to affordable health care, especially during this current outbreak. President Trump’s 2021 budget proposal, which was unveiled 11 days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency, includes a 16 percent cut in funding for the CDC, it slashes Medicaid spending by $744 billion and cuts the Medicare budget by $460 billion over 10 years.
“At a time like this, when our country faces a real, legitimate public health emergency, it’s maddening to me that this Administration is working overtime to undermine access to affordable health care,” Sen. Menendez continued. “Under this President’s watch, we have seen an increase in the uninsured rate for the first time in a decade, and he recently sent a budget to Congress that slashes Medicare and Medicaid. Likewise, the Administration will soon head to the Supreme Court to argue that the Affordable Care Act be struck down – leaving millions of Americans uninsured and millions more without essential benefits like coverage for emergency room visits and free primary care.”
Sen. Menendez was also joined by Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Passaic Mayor Hector Lora, and North Hudson Community Action Corporation’s CEO Joan Quigley and Chief Medical Officer Rita Knause, M.D.
“North Hudson is very grateful to Senator Menendez for his interest and his help since we are on the front line of primary health and thousands of people rely on us to keep them safe, especially during this new threat,” said NHCAC CEO Joan Quigley.
Sen. Menendez has been out front since January, working to ensure New Jersey has the resources it needs to combat the coronavirus outbreak:
Last week, Sen. Menendez urged employers to provide flexibility to their workers in the event of an outbreak and he demanded HHS to take immediate action to address the many ways the Trump Administration’s health care sabotage has undermined our preparedness for and ability to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Sens. Menendez and Cory Booker successfully pressed the CDC to step up passenger screenings for coronavirus at Newark Liberty International Airport, the nation’s fifth busiest, andcalled on the Trump Administration to appoint a global health security expert to the White House's National Security Council (NSC) to address and coordinate administration efforts in response to the coronavirus and other global health security threats. The pair of lawmakers also urged HHS last week to unlock emergency funds from the supplemental package to help state and local governments handle the growing spread of the virus.
Sen. Menendez toured Hackensack Meridian Health’s Center for Discovery of Innovation (CDI) lab in Nutley on Feb. 28 where researchers are developing coronavirus test that can return a result within two hours, and called for a greater federal response to the global outbreak. He also joined Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09) in requesting information from the Food and Drug Administration on the federal government’s plan to preserve the medical supply chain in light of the outbreak.
Sen. Menendez has co-hosted three Senate briefings by high-level Trump Administration officials in recent weeks on the global coronavirus outbreak, in which he continued to press for additional resources for New Jersey, and joined State Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli, chair of the New Jersey Coronavirus Task Force, to discuss the latest efforts in response to the global outbreak and provide the public an update on the current situation in New Jersey.
Sen. Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also urged the Trump Administration to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts in light of the global Coronavirus outbreak, and warned that its annual proposed funding cut could threaten the government’s ability to effectively combat the spread of the deadly virus. The Trump Administration has repeatedly proposed dramatic cuts to programs and offices that spearhead efforts to respond to this and other pandemics, including a 2020 budget proposal that cut critical pandemic response programs by nearly 20 percent.