GOP lawmakers call for immediate $300M in COVID aid for NJ businesses
TRENTON — Republican lawmakers are calling for the state Senate and Assembly to convene before Thanksgiving in order to approve $300 million in emergency aid for small businesses and nonprofits affected by the pandemic.
For months, the opposition party has been criticizing the Murphy administration for being too slow to award the $2.39 billion in CARES Act funding that the state received from the federal government.
Republicans also criticized Murphy for allocating $450 million of CARES Act funds to pay government workers despite having a budget surplus.
They also faulted him for vetoing bipartisan and unanimously passed legislation last month that would have awarded $30 million to restaurants who took a hit when Murphy backtracked on an early July reopening date. Murphy said the legislation would have been redundant because a week earlier he had announced $35 million in CARES Act funds for restaurants.
The call by the Republicans in New Jersey comes as Republicans in the U.S. Senate haggle with the Democratic-controlled House over a new coronavirus relief package. Democrats have called for a $2 trillion package while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants just $500 billion. President-elect Joe Biden on Friday called on Congress to pass billions of dollars in aid during the lame-duck months of Trump's presidency.
State Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. said the remaining portion of the CARES Act funds should be used immediately to help struggling small businesses and nonprofits.
"If the Democrats are willing to rush sessions to consider marijuana legislation, there’s no reason they can’t call the Legislature in to protect millions of jobs,” he said in a written statement with other lawmakers.
“Many of our businesses are on the brink of permanent closure if they don’t get help,” Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick said.
The GOP legislation would allocate $300 million for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to award in loans and grants to small enterprises hurt by interruptions caused by the governor's pandemic emergency orders.
Last month Murphy announced plans for $100 million of CARES Act funds, including $70 million for small businesses through the EDA, $35 million for restaurants and bars, $15 million for businesses with less than six employees, $10 million for small businesses to buy personal protective equipment, $15 million to help tenants and landlords with rent through December and $5 million for food banks.
A gym owner in Sussex County, meanwhile, is suing Murphy, arguing that when the governor invoked the Civil Defense and Disaster Control Act to issue the pandemic orders, he was supposed to have set up a compensation program for businesses ordered closed.
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