Small Business Assistance:
The United States has crossed 6.7 million infections and 198,000 deaths due to COVID-19. More than 56 million people, including over 1.5 million workers in our state, have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic. Our neighbors are struggling to put food on the table and make housing payments. Our states and localities are being bled into bankruptcy. The level of pain is impossible for any of us to capture in words.
It has now been 126 days since the House passed the HEROES Act to provide additional economic relief to families, state and local governments, and essential workers on the front lines of this pandemic. As millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet, this legislation would extend weekly $600 federal unemployment benefits and authorize another round of stimulus checks. Critically, the HEROES Act allocates $16.6 billion for our state and $11.2 billion for our towns and cities to stave off budget cuts to schools, first responders, and other essential services.
After months of inaction, the Republican controlled Senate attempted to pass a partisan bill that doesn’t come close to addressing the problems. We need a serious legislative agreement because it will determine the health and welfare of generations that will follow us. Too much is at stake. I will continue to fight like hell to get the American people the aid they need to weather this public health and economic crisis.
My Work in Congress
Fighting for Federal Support on PPE: I joined bipartisan Members of New Jersey’s Congressional Delegation in urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reverse a new policy stipulating the agency will no longer provide emergency reimbursement to school systems and local governments for cloth masks, thermometers, physical barriers, and PPE. As the new school year begins, this will make it harder for state and local governments to keep teachers and students safe in the classroom. This will hamstring efforts to slow the spread of the virus, and our delegation is determined to fight back.
Passing Critical Legislation: This week, I returned to Washington, D.C. to vote in favor of several pieces of legislation, including the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694) and a House resolution (H. Res. 908) condemning anti-Asian bigotry related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Women make up almost half the workforce and yet they continue to face cruel and needless obstacles in the workplace. Discrimination against pregnant workers is egregious and with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that I cosponsored, we have taken concrete action to end it. This legislation will ensure that pregnant workers are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations.
I was also glad to cosponsor a resolution condemning discrimination of any kind against our Asian-American neighbors. Our diverse district is home to some of the most vibrantly-rich Asian American communities in America. It is incumbent on all of us to stop any promotion of stereotypes associated with this virus. Too many members of our own community have been subject to threats, bigotry and even violence. Asian-Americans are an integral part of our diverse society and any hatred towards them is unfounded and unwelcome.
Bringing Federal Dollars Home: Today, I was proud to announce that FEMA has awarded a $2,419,105 grant to the state of New Jersey to improve and enhance the state’s flooding mitigation infrastructure. Eight years after Superstorm Sandy, New Jerseyans are still coping with the damage and worried about storms on the horizon. Our delegation has worked vigilantly to make New Jersey whole again and ensure that our state is protected from future hurricanes. This federal grant will make our state more resilient against future disasters and provide New Jersey families with the peace of mind they deserve.
An Update on COVID-19 in New Jersey
Slowing the Spread: As of September 18, there are 200,152 confirmed cases and 16,057 deaths in our state. Last week, the state reported an additional 2,949 infections and 43 deaths. These statistics are tragic, but thanks to Governor Murphy’s swift action as well as the efforts of New Jerseyans practicing social distancing, we have flattened the curve in our state.
The rate of transmission (average number of persons each contagious person infects) for New Jersey is currently 1.08. It is vital we keep that number well below 1.0 by continuing to practice social distancing, wearing a face covering, and practicing good hygiene. Further, anyone returning or visiting from one of the 30 states and territories with significant virus spread should abide by the state travel advisory to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Re-Opening the Economy: We remain in Stage Two of Governor Murphy’s plan to safely re-open the economy. This has included the re-opening of outdoor dining, retail stores, outdoor recreational businesses, swimming pools, shopping malls, museums, gyms, health clubs, and indoor dining and theaters at 25% capacity.
Unemployment: The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) has dispersed more than $10.3 billion in federal unemployment benefits and $4.8 billion in state unemployment benefits. A total of 1.58 million people in New Jersey have applied for unemployment since the start of the pandemic. With Republicans letting the weekly $600 federal pandemic unemployment insurance run out for millions of Americans, our state continues to report declines in benefits paid out each week.
NJDOL has received approval from FEMA for a grant through the Lost Wages Supplemental Assistance program, which provides up to $300 per week for a limited time to eligible individuals, on top of other unemployment benefits they receive. It expects to have the programming in place next month to distribute the $300 per week benefit. New Jersey has been approved for five weeks of these benefits, and has applied for a sixth week. This program from Donald Trump does not meet the moment for millions of Americans across our country and thousands in our state in desperate need of assistance. I will continue to fight to pass the HEROES Act to restore the additional $600 federal pandemic unemployment benefits.
For more information about federal or state unemployment benefits, please visit: myunemployment.nj.gov. If you are experiencing issues receiving your owed unemployment benefits, please reach out to my Paterson office at 973-523-5152 for assistance.
We are facing a global pandemic, and ensuring the safety of all families from COVID-19 and its impact on day-to-day life is my top priority. My office has prepared fact sheets to ensure workers, families, businesses, and health care providers know their options for relief. You can always reach me and my staff in Washington at 202-225-5751 or New Jersey at 973-523-5152 for assistance or further guidance. Remember, my door is always open to you. We are all in this together.
Bill Pascrell, Jr.