WASHINGTON, D.C. – As New Jersey grapples with its first presumptive case of coronavirus, U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, announced the awarding of $1,750,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reimburse the State of New Jersey’s Department of Health (NJDOH) for its response and preparedness efforts to combat COVID-19.
The senators are working to pass an over $8 billion supplemental funding package, approved yesterday by the House of Representatives that, in part, will provide additional federal funds to states that are devoting resources towards personnel, lab equipment and medical supplies to fight the virus. Once passed, the funding package will also bolster efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to combat the virus and develop a vaccine.
“Coronavirus is a serious and sobering public health threat - we need to be investing in the appropriate resources needed for preparedness and response in order to mitigate it. This federal funding is key as we work to support our state and local health departments, which are on the front lines of dealing with this threat. I’m pleased the CDC rightfully recognized that New Jersey is a state bearing one of the largest burdens of responding to this virus,” said Sen. Booker. “Sadly, if this Administration had taken this threat seriously from the start, rather than bungling the rollout of testing kits, dragging its feet on appointing a single official to coordinate response, and allowing political personnel to overrule recommendations from the CDC, it’s likely we wouldn’t be in the precarious situation we now find ourselves.”
“I applaud New Jersey’s efforts in combating COVID-19 and ensuring the public is both informed and protected,” said Sen. Menendez. “The federal government has a responsibility to reimburse states, like New Jersey, that are devoting significant resources in order to respond to this public health emergency and protect the public. This funding is a great first step and I will continue working to ensure New Jersey receives the funding and resources it needs to combat the spread of the coronavirus.”
Having one of the most robust response and preparedness efforts in the country, New Jersey was awarded this funding to offset the cost of monitoring travelers, data management, lab equipment, supplies, staffing, shipping and infection control. There have been several individuals in New Jersey who have been required to undergo testing for COVID-19, including a Central Jersey patient last week and several patients who were tested and quarantined after getting off a cruise ship last month in Bayonne.
Sens. Menendez and Booker have been leading efforts in Congress to ensure New Jersey has the resources to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Both senators yesterday demanded HHS to take immediate action to address the many ways the Trump Administration’s health care sabotage has undermined our preparedness for and ability to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Sens. Menendez and Booker successfully pressed the CDC to step up passenger screenings for coronavirus at Newark Liberty International Airport, the nation’s fifth busiest, and called on the Trump Administration to appoint a global health security expert to the White House's National Security Council (NSC) to address and coordinate administration efforts in response to the coronavirus and other global health security threats.
On Tuesday, Sen. Booker sent a letter to Senate leaders urging them to prioritize state and local funding in the Coronavirus emergency spending package being negotiated in Congress. That spending package still need to pass the full Congress.
Last week, Sen. Menendez toured Hackensack Meridian Health’s Center for Discovery of Innovation (CDI) lab in Nutley where researchers are developing coronavirus test that can return a result within two hours, and called for a greater federal response to the global outbreak. He also joined Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09) in requesting information from the Food and Drug Administration on the federal government’s plan to preserve the medical supply chain in light of the outbreak.
Sen. Menendez has co-hosted two Senate briefings in recent weeks on the global coronavirus outbreak by high-level Trump Administration officials, in which he continued to press for additional resources for New Jersey, and joined State Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli, chair of the New Jersey Coronavirus Task Force, to discuss the latest efforts in response to the global outbreak and provide the public an update on the current situation in New Jersey.
Sen. Menendez also urged the Trump Administration to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts in light of the global Coronavirus outbreak and warned that its annual proposed funding cut could threaten the government’s ability to effectively combat the spread of the deadly virus. The Trump Administration has repeatedly proposed dramatic cuts to programs and offices that spearhead efforts to respond to this and other pandemics, including a 2020 budget proposal that cut critical pandemic response programs by nearly 20 percent.