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U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Menendez bill would bring billions to N.J. for coronavirus relief

Bi-partisan legislation establishes SMART Fund to boost state economy

By David Wildstein, April 20 2020 1:25 pm

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is introducing a bi-partisan $500 billion fund to help state and local governments maintain essential services while dealing with the economic effects of the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Menendez and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) announced plans for a State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund to supplement the current $150 billion set aside in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“The proverbial house is on fire and we need to focus the water on the hotspots, because if we don’t put the flames out, they will only jump until the entire block is up in smoke,” Menendez said.  “It’s like a hurricane sitting on land indefinitely.”

The SMART Fund would deliver funding to state and local governments in three equal tranches based on a formula that takes parts of the U.S. with the greatest need into consideration.

One-third will go to eligible government entities based on population size, one-third based on the number of COVID-19 cases relative to the U.S. population, and one-third based on projected state revenue losses.

“As a former mayor, I understand the incredible toll fighting this pandemic is having on cities, towns and states on the frontlines to both wage this war and continue to support their local health departments, pay teachers and first responders, fix the roads and maintain the parks,” Menendez said. “The COVID-19 pandemic may not know state borders, but it has certainly hit some states and regions harder than others.”

Menendez’s bill would direct funds to state government, 21 New Jersey counties, and municipalities with populations of more than 50,000.

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