Helping Those Who Help Everyone Else

While many businesses and institutions have suffered during this COVID pandemic, two stand out that have been especially hard-hit and are struggling to recover. One is food banks, which by their very nature and stated mission are critical institutions that have seen that mission grow in importance during these times. They spend their resources trying to do their part to eradicate food insecurity by ensuring that no one goes to bed hungry. Is there anyone who hasn't seen on television the long lines of people standing or in cars, waiting for help? It shouldn't go unnoticed that some of those recipients, when interviewed, admit they never before stood in a food line.

These worthy nonprofits help us, and we need to support them. That's why I have introduced initiatives that help nonprofits during trying times. They are:

Senate Bill No. 2275. Provides FY2020 supplemental appropriations of $15 million for grants to food banks. This bill would provide economic food assistance to various food banks in New Jersey. Is there anything more fundamental than helping organizations that are the front line at providing basic food necessities for those in need? Unfortunately, Governor Phil Murphy vetoed this legislation citing the current fiscal situation but, I intend to push this measure as a component of the new fiscal year’s budget process. This bipartisan legislation is needed and finding the resources is an important endeavor that should not be left on the cutting room floor.

Senate Bill No. 2360. Allows gross income tax deduction for charitable contributions to certain New Jersey-based charitable organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to encourage philanthropic giving to various nonprofits that have been struggling because of the coronavirus. Various media interviews with the leaders of these nonprofits highlight the reduced donations that are occurring. This bill would encourage our fellow citizens — a nudge if you will — to donate with a tax incentive that allows them to deduct from gross income charitable contributions during the taxable years during the COVID-19 pandemic. This measure has already passed the New Jersey State Senate overwhelmingly and is poised for action by the General Assembly. Stay tuned!

We also need a mechanism to help municipalities that have suffered a financial shortfall because of the coronavirus. The financial hit to municipal coffers could jeopardize public safety and municipal services, thus exacerbating the difficult state we find ourselves in. We need to provide local government with the tools necessary to shore up this deficit.

We have offered assistance to homeowners and tenants, and now we must extend this relief to municipalities. This is why I have introduced an initiative that addresses this issue by allowing local governments to avail themselves of financing options that they do not presently have. The proposal:

Senate Bill No. 2475. Authorizes the issuance of "coronavirus relief bonds" by municipalities and counties.

This bill would establish a new financing mechanism to enable local municipalities to borrow money to address the cost attributable to increased expense, and revenue shortfalls due to the COVID pandemic, and to pay back the money over a 10-year period. The measure would limit the amount of borrowing to the specific level of revenue lost due to the pandemic. We would also encourage those entities to adhere to best practices related to shared services and municipal budgeting to ensure that this relief is fiscally prudent and related to COVID.

My legislative efforts to assist homeowners and tenants, municipalities, and other legislation I discussed in previous blogs, share a common thread. First, we as a town, county, state and country have a collective responsibility to help each other. The strength of our union is that in times of despair we rally around each other to pull one another forward. It is a civic duty, even if the term “civic” seems less fashionable these days.

Second, these proposals are fiscally responsible. That is, it's not a giveaway forever, but a measured response to an unexpected crisis. Furthermore, by implementing these initiatives now we stave off larger social services costs down the line. We may have others, though I pray that they will not be needed. However, in a free society, knowing that we can depend on our fellow citizens and, yes, our government too is the hallmark of a stable society. And that's why these efforts are effective and prudent responses to meet this unprecedented challenge.

That’s my take, what’s yours?

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