Gottheimer: Congress must pass COVID-19 pandemic stimulus — now

"In the end, this COVID-19 relief package presents a path forward for our country, not only to overcome this virus, but also to strengthen our nation moving forward."

The numbers are startling: Every day, 200,000 people are diagnosed with COVID-19 and thousands are dying, including more than 17,200 total deaths in our state. Nearly 30% of New Jersey small businesses have already closed their doors, and families are at food pantries for the first time in their lives. Unemployment lines are twice what they were a year ago, the demand for testing has skyrocketed and our families are struggling to pay their bills. Our schools and local governments are under water, too. The bottom line is that, with cases spiking and a long winter ahead, our country can’t wait for action.  After nine months of obstructionism, it’s time Congress put the pandemic ahead of partisan politics, and actually delivered relief — right now — for our families, small businesses, and communities.  

Earlier this week, the Problem Solvers Caucus, comprised of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, along with a bipartisan group of Senators, introduced a COVID-19 emergency relief package that would help get our country into the first months of the next administration. By working across the aisle and with both chambers, we developed a framework that provides the American people an immediate down payment to get through these difficult months.

Here are the highlights:

  • It will help families across our country with $300 a week of supplemental unemployment, childcare, rental assistance, and resources for the food insecure.
  • It also includes $300 billion investment for our state and local governments of all sizes, food security, mass transit needs, resources to fight opioid addiction, broadband as well as K-12 and college education.

The virus has no regard for “red states” or “blue states,” and these resources are essential for supporting the brave first responders and essential workers that have had our backs throughout the pandemic.

We’re also getting vital resources to the millions of small businesses that have been hurting this year. Our proposal provides $300 billion for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding to our small businesses with significant revenue loss, ensures they won’t be taxed on the first round, and that there’s simplified forgiveness for loans of $150,000 or less.

We are providing federal investment to our hospitals, long-term care facilities and health systems, and to our frontline workers, so they can safely continue working to keep our communities safe, including more funding into the deployment of a vaccine, more testing and tracing.

The agreement isn’t perfect, but, as the old saying goes, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Right now, something is far better than nothing, and the American people are sick and tired of waiting. The good news is that, after months of delay, momentum is finally building to get a bipartisan package across the finish line. President-elect Joe Biden has signaled his support, as have Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and scores of Republicans in both chambers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Retail Federation have all backed the bill.

In the end, this COVID-19 relief package presents a path forward for our country, not only to overcome this virus, but also to strengthen our nation moving forward. Lawmakers from across the country and across the political spectrum have rightly put aside their differences to develop a common-sense, immediate relief package. Now, it’s time to pass it, because we all need some light through this darkness.