The New Jersey State AFL-CIO thanks and congratulates all members of New Jersey’s delegation to the House of Representatives for swift and decisive passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Families First, a bipartisan bill, is a bolder step beyond the $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus spending package that became law on March 6.
The bill passed the U.S. House early Saturday, 363-40, and has gone to the Senate for action, possibly as soon as Monday. All 12 New Jersey House members voted for Families First.
“This legislation builds on the $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus spending package passed and signed into law last week,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th District, explained. “That package included support for state and local health agencies, vaccine and treatment development, and loans for affected small businesses to lessen the economic blow of this public health emergency. The state of New Jersey is directly receiving at least $15.6 million from this funding package.”
“The coronavirus not only threatens our health as Americans, it also threatens the economic security of workers and families,” said Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st District. “In order to properly fight the coronavirus and protect our communities, today we acted to ensure that everyone who needs to be tested can be, free of charge.
“And if you or a loved one gets sick, we secured paid emergency leave, so workers have the peace of mind that they can stay home to treat an illness and still be able provide for their families. The Senate and the president must take swift action and make this bill law.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th District, said that “containing the outbreak, finding a cure and a safe and effective vaccine must be our highest priority — no matter the cost.”
“We must contain the coronavirus pandemic and protect all people, especially those most vulnerable to the disease such as the elderly and those with serious chronic medical conditions,” said Smith, who strongly supported and voted for the measure hours after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus a national emergency, opening the door for state and local governments to receive additional federal assistance.
“The help provided in this bill directly addresses the concerns I’ve heard from health experts, business leaders and so many others in our community trying to immediately contain this outbreak,” added Rep. Andy Kim, D-3rd District.
The legislation includes:
Free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured;
Paid emergency leave with both 14 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave;
Enhanced Unemployment Insurance, a first step that will extend protections to furloughed workers;
Strengthened food security initiatives, including SNAP, student meals, senior’s nutrition, and food banks;
Clear protections for frontline workers, including health care workers and other workers who are in contact with those who have been exposed or are responsible for cleaning at-risk places;
Increased federal funds for Medicaid, as states face increased costs.
“We need to help Americans because this is an economic crisis as well as a national health crisis,” said Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr., D-10th District.
“This bill doesn’t solve everything,” Kim said. “We still need more testing kits, more medical supplies, and a greater public awareness to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We also need to recognize that these measures are only meant to stabilize the economic shocks so many American families will feel during this crisis.”
“Our communities face unprecedented disruptions in their lives,” noted Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11th District. “I’m proud of the work the House did to step up and lead during this crisis.”
“I will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to contain the spread and move forward,” Norcross said, “ensuring that [New Jersey] is prepared, residents are healthy and our workers and their families are protected.”