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December 14, 2020

Govs. Wolf, Murphy urge Congress to pass new COVID-19 relief bill

Capitol Hill is considering a $908 billion deal after months of heated debate over a followup to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act

Government Coronavirus
Wolf Murphy Stimulus Governor Tom Wolf/Flickr/Edwin Torres/New Jersey Office of the Governor

Govs. Tom Wolf and Phil Murphy say their states need additional federal relief to weather the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey will suffer drastic economic consequences if Congress fails to pass another COVID-19 stimulus package by the end of the year, Govs. Tom Wolf and Phil Murphy said Monday. 

The Democratic governors joined forces during a discussion, dubbed the "Coronavirus War Room," organized by the health care policy advocate group Protect Our Care. 

"The situation we are in is dire," Wolf said. "In Pennsylvania, the pandemic is far worse now than it was in the spring when we successfully took action to flatten the curve. Our hospitals are now in danger of being overwhelmed by COVID-19, a scenario that would have devastating consequences for our entire health care system if we let that happen."

Pennsylvania reported an additional 18,646 coronavirus infections Monday, bringing the statewide total to 499,764 since the pandemic began. There are 6,026 patients hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 1,249 in intensive care.

New Jersey reported 4,805 new coronavirus cases, increasing the statewide total to 405,448. There are 3,635 patients hospitalized, including 704 in the ICU. It is the first time that the state has exceeded 700 ICU patients since late May.

"It’s disgraceful that right now, in the midst of the worst surge of COVID-19 that our country has seen to date, when record numbers of Americans are dying and being hospitalized, our federal leaders seem to be incapable of providing Americans with desperately needed support," Wolf added. 

The federal government passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in late March – just weeks into the pandemic. 

Unused funds provided to state and local governments through the relief bill will expire at the end of December, meaning that millions of Americans could lose unemployment benefits and other protections.

"We need help for businesses," Wolf said. "We need help for individual American families all throughout this country. People in my state are suffering right now due to a lack of federal assistance, and things are only going to get worse if the federal government refuses to act."

The Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-run House have fought over the size of another stimulus package for months. The House has pushed for a much more expensive package, initially passing a $3 trillion deal before scaling it down. 

Congress is currently considering a $908 billion relief package that would include about $160 billion for state and local governments, resources for first responders and front line workers and grants for state and local entities distributing coronavirus vaccines. 

"Our federal government needs to make it easier, not harder, for people to follow safety precautions because without additional aid for Pennsylvanians and extended deadlines for eviction moratoriums and unemployment assistance programs, we will likely see the pandemic get even worse in the coming weeks," Wolf said. 

An ideal package would be worth at least $3 trillion, Murphy said. But he said New Jersey will accept any package that helps keep people employed during the public health crisis. 

"The longer this goes on, the bigger the price tag," Murphy said. "This is cheaper the earlier we act, and it would've been a lot cheaper back in May. The longer this goes on, the costlier it will be and the more suffering that will be associated with it.

"This is about continuing to employ the very frontline essential workers we desperately need to provide services."

Wolf and Murphy’s full remarks can be watched below.

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