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Booker Touts American Rescue Plan Benefits for South Jersey

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) 

By Vince Conti

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) April 1 held a “video call with the South Jersey business community.” The call, organized through several South Jersey chambers of commerce, focused on the American Rescue Plan and, what Booker saw as, the plan’s benefits for South Jersey businesses.
Throughout the effort to pass the legislation, much of the public and media focus was on the new round of stimulus checks and extension of federal government booster payments to unemployment insurance. 
In the call, Booker called attention to the legislation’s provisions aimed at helping the business community. He urged the chambers of commerce to “become navigators,” helping to steer small businesses through the plan’s complexities, reminding them that much of the funding is “competitive.” 
Booker said he wants to see New Jersey businesses positioned well “for access to the streams of revenue.” Noting that New Jersey “is a giving state” that sends more to the federal government than it receives, Booker pledged his office would continue to “work long hours” to help local businesses get their share of the plan’s benefits.
Arguing it was critical to look at the “big programs” in the bill, Booker cited three specifically. 
He called attention to the $28 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which, he said, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is expecting to have up and running in April. 
Booker said one in six restaurants and bars across the nation closed permanently due tothe pandemic’s economic damage. He feared the number might be even higher in southern New Jersey’s tourist economy. 
The grant program, run through the SBA, has funding targeted for small business restaurants and bars, he said. 
“It is important that we help small businesses get these funds,” he added.
Booker also focused on the child tax credit provisions in the legislation, calling it one of “the biggest tax relief efforts in the history of our country.” 
He said it had the potential to cut childhood poverty in half, noting that “every dollar spent to reduce childhood poverty pays back $5 in later spending.” 
The third area of focus for Booker, as he discussed the legislation’s “big” scope, was community funding. State and local assistance, with what he called “flexible” monies, would help offset the devastation the pandemic wrought in municipal, county and state budgets. 
“Every community in New Jersey will share in this funding,” he emphasized. 
He urged local businesses and chambers to “overuse” his team. RecognizingSouth Jersey’sunique economy, he said his staff is there to help fit needs to opportunities in the legislation. 
Aside from stimulus and unemployment funding, along with SBA’s program for restaurants, the child tax credit, and the direct state and community relief, the American Rescue Plan contains provisions for other areas of small business assistance, including new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), funding for shuttered concert and stage venues, and tax credits to promote employee retention.
Outside small business aid, the legislation provides housing and nutrition assistance, health care support for the Affordable Care Act, COBRA assistance, funding for community health centers, support for transit agencies, consumer protection provisions and more. 
Michael Chait, of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, asked about the prospects of another stimulus bill, which Booker said might be necessary. 
Booker spoke of a possible fourth wave of the virus underway. 
He said that in areas of past U.S. dominance concerning education, research and development, and infrastructure, “We are not now in the top10.” 
He added that the generation of the 1980s stopped investing in infrastructure and research and development, necessary platforms for jobs and a thriving economy. It is also critical that we reinvest in “our most valuable resources, our children,” he said. 
Saying “we are not out of the woods yet,” Booker urged support for a large infrastructure bill. 
“We need an Eisenhower level of investment,” he said, reminding his audience that, in current dollars, President Eisenhower’s infrastructure spending was over $1 trillion. 
Booker asked the chambers to help their business owners understand how to be competitive for the American Rescue Plan’s funding opportunities. It is important that New Jersey get its fair share of the assistance funding the bill makes available, he said.
Booker’s office compiled a briefing paper for New Jersey residents and business owners concerning the American Rescue Plan provisions, which was updated April 1 (https://bit.ly/3md4P8Z). 
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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