Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-24) are teaming up to secure more federal coronavirus aid for Warren and Sussex counties.
The two lawmakers requested additional dollars from Gov. Phil Murphy for the two counties to address resources towns in those counties need to provide essential health services for their residents, support front-line healthcare workers and first responders, and help their communities recover from the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes after Sen. Oroho joined District 24 Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths (R-24) in calling on New Jersey’s congressional delegation to investigate and explain why counties such as Sussex and Warren were left out of the first batch of federal grants delivered to New Jersey following the passage of a $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“Our families and businesses in Sussex and Warren counties are suffering just as much as anyone in New Jersey,” the District 24 legislators said in a joint statement. “It’s very concerning, and frankly unacceptable, that the communities we represent were overlooked in the first round of federal funding.”
Gottheimer and Oroho are asking state officials to deploy discretionary dollars New Jersey received through the CARES Act. The state has the ability to allocate monies to struggling municipalities that did not receive enough relief through formula-driven programs like the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG). The state received over $4 million in CDBG and $11 million in ESG grants.
The issues arose as the CARES Act distribution of funds is governed by unchangeable federal formulas that did not award municipalities in Warren and Sussex CDBG and ESG grants. The counties did not meet any of the three predetermined formulas criteria: counties with at least 500,000 people; cities with populations over 50,000; or “principal cities,” which is a Census formula designation.
Warren and Sussex counties will receive federal stimulus resources through the CARES Act to help local first responders, schools, and hospitals, in addition to the resources currently being distributed directly in rescue dollars to small businesses, non-profits, and individuals.
Gottheimer and Oroho noted the New Jersey Department of Health has reported that the pandemic has not yet peaked in New Jersey and is expected to worsen in the coming weeks. The number of positive cases in Warren and Sussex Counties has continued to increase over the past several weeks.
“These two counties remain in the so-called ‘hot’ region of the outbreak in our state and need this critical funding to get through the challenging next weeks and months,” according to the letter from Gotttheimer and Oroho. “This funding will give municipal governments the flexibility to best address their most urgent needs, continue providing essential services for residents, and help their communities recover from the economic fallout caused by this public health crisis.”
Going forward, the lawmakers asked Gov. Murphy for public support to adjust any formulas that inadvertently exclude rural areas for the next round of emergency coronavirus legislation.