WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today announced that the New Jersey Association of Counties (NJAC) has endorsed his $500 billion bipartisan bill that would provide direct federal funds to states, counties and municipalities on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill lowers the population threshold for eligibility to 50,000, assuring each of New Jersey’s 21 counties qualifies for direct federal aid. It also aligns with the request of Governor Phil Murphy and local leaders across New Jersey as the state and its local governments face increased expenses, dipping revenues and potential cuts to essential public services.

“As a former mayor, I know firsthand the challenges that our local governments face on a daily basis, never mind during a public health and economic crisis,” said Sen. Menendez. “New Jersey’s county governments have done an extraordinary job and have made great sacrifices in order to protect the health and safety of their residents. But county governments can’t do this alone. They need robust, flexible federal resources to help them respond to the outbreak and continue offering the services the public relies on every single day. The last thing our counties need to do during this crisis is cut services and announce layoffs. I thank the NJAC for their support and continued advocacy throughout our state.”

“NJAC commends Sen. Menendez for his leadership and tireless advocacy in introducing bipartisan legislation that would provide much needed assistance to all 21 counties, which are playing a vital role in providing essential services and protecting the public health, safety, and welfare of residents across the Garden State during this unprecedented public health crisis,” said Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of Counties John G. Donnadio, Esq.

NJAC is a non-partisan advocacy group focused on advancing policies that save taxpayer dollars and enhance public services. The group represents all 21 counties in New Jersey.

The State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund, which is co-authored by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), builds upon the existing $150 billion set aside in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help states and local governments. It expands eligibility to include counties and towns with populations of 50,000 or greater—the current threshold is 500,000—ensures every eligible entity receives additional funding, increases flexibility for states and local governments to use the funds to plug revenue losses due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and targets additional funding toward coronavirus hot zones to combat the pandemic head-on.

Specifically, the SMART Fund, which falls in line with requests made by the National Governors Association, would deliver funding to state and local governments, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia in three equal tranches based upon a new formula that takes into consideration areas of the country with the greatest need:

1) One-third to eligible entities based on population size to ensure they each receive additional federal resources to meet their growing needs (Same formula used to disburse the $150 billion state stabilization fund created in the CARES Act, but essentially doubles those available funds)

2) One-third to eligible entities based upon the number of COVID-19 cases relative to the U.S. population to target the urgent public health challenge

3) One-third to eligible entities based upon state revenue losses relative to pre-COVID-19 projections to target the urgent economic challenge.

This proposal builds upon the successes of the State Stabilization Fund in the CARES Act, championed by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). The senators will continue working with him and the rest of their colleagues in the Senate to provide immediate and direct assistance to states and communities fighting this pandemic.