Rep. Josh Gottheimer is placing the blame for the lack of a national plan allowing the coronavirus to spread and ensuing economic fallout with the man at the top, Donald Trump.
“I would give President Trump a failing grade for leadership during this crisis,” said Gottheimer in a recent interview with North-JerseyNews.com. “The President failed to provide strong leadership nationally on issues such as testing and building a supply chain to confront the coronavirus. ”
Gottheimer has seen the issues COVID-19 causes first hand as North Jersey’s 5th District has been one of the hardest hit in the nation, with hospitals like Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck overrun with cases in the early days of the crisis to the staggering loss of life at long-term care facilities such as the New Jersey Veteran Homes at Paramus and Andover Subacute & Rehabilitation Center in Sussex County.
National Policy Needed
“We need a national policy and the President has not given us one,” said the two-term Congressman. ”Too often it is state against state, governor against governor bidding on needed supplies like (personal protection equipment) and ventilators, ones which we still do not have enough of.”
Gottheimer criticised Trump for not using the Defense Protection Act (DPA) more broadly to make sure at the height of the crisis supplies to fight COVID-19 were distributed as well as not building up the Strategic National Stockpile for a second wave.
“Other countries have put in their orders for needles and syringes for when a vaccine is developed. We as a country aren’t prepared for that,” he said. “Can you imagine if we have a vaccine but not enough syringes to administer it?”
Supply Chain Concerns
Recently, Gottheimer led a bipartisan letter signed by 25 members of Congress to House Leadership to address the shortage of needles and syringes needed to deploy a COVID-19 vaccine nationwide.
“It’s no question that our supply chains have been severely impacted by this pandemic,” said Gottheimer.
To produce a single dose of a vaccine for every person in the U.S., more than 300 million syringes and needles are needed. If a vaccine requires more than one dose for deployment, the U.S. could require much more.
“Today only 10% of the PPE we will need is made in the U.S.,” said Gottheimer. “The President should be using the DPA authority now to make sure we are not in the same spot as we were this spring.”
Gottheimer was the only New Jersey official who served on the President’s bipartisan task force advising the White House on the reopening of the nation’s economy, allowing him access to successfully lobby for federal aid the state needed at the height of the crisis.
“It was helpful for New Jersey because I could make the case directly to the President on what our needs were at the time,” he said, such as the deployment of the National Guard to long-term care facilities and securing PPEs from the national stockpile.
Focus on Economy
With regards to the economy, Gottheimer is working in the House with fellow New Jersey Representive Mikie Sherrill to pass Sen. Bob Menendez’s $500 billion bipartisan State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transmission (SMART) Fund bill to help local municipalities across the country, a bill he hopes to get passed in July.
In New Jersey, the state budget is facing a budget hole of at least $20 billion. Gov. Phil Murphy has repeatedly pleaded for federal aid to help with the looming budget shortfall.
“The money will go to help states and local municipalities to keep them from making drastic cuts, especially to first responders and teachers,” said Gottheimer. “This is every bit an economic crisis as it is a health crisis.”
Additionally, the congressman is hoping to get more money for small businesses trying to navigate through the crisis, particularly in the Paycheck Protection Program.