Apr 2, 2020

NJ Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez COVID-19 Press Conference April 2

New Jersey Senators Coronavirus April 2
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsNJ Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez COVID-19 Press Conference April 2

New Jersey Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez held a coronavirus press conference today. Read the full transcript here.

 

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Cory Booker: (00:00)
I literally have gained a lot of weight during this COVID crisis. I decided that April 1st was my day to stop eating my stress.

Steve: (00:12)
You can still go out jogging can’t you?

Cory Booker: (00:13)
I will, probably this weekend. I’ve been thinking about my first day running. I’ve been trying to do everything I can to set an example for others and so I’m thinking about how to do some road work.

Steve: (00:17)
It’s interesting. Some people are sick because they’ve closed the parks and some haven’t. And state parks are open. I guess the federal parks are open as well.

Cory Booker: (01:20)
Yeah, yeah. In Newark we have county and city parks. We have a great track near my house, so about three quarters of a mile to get there and then back [inaudible 00:00:46]. I’ll let you guys know if I make it. How are you?

Speaker 1: (01:20)
Good morning. Nice to see you.

Cory Booker: (01:20)
Always good to see you.

Cory Booker: (01:20)
Sheriff.

Speaker 1: (01:20)
Morning.

Cory Booker: (01:20)
Namaste. I’m doing very well.

Speaker 1: (01:20)
Social distancing?

Cory Booker: (01:20)
Social distancing. We can bring back the powers.

Speaker 1: (01:20)
How you been doing?

Cory Booker: (01:20)
I’m well, thank God. This is my last one. [inaudible 00:01:13]. I was just saying I’ve gained a lot of [inaudible 00:01:20].

Speaker 2: (01:20)
How are you doing? Hanging in there?

Cory Booker: (01:20)
[crosstalk 00:01:28].

Speaker 2: (01:28)
So we’ll sit this way. You guys don’t have to stand.

Cory Booker: (01:30)
That sounds really good.

Speaker 2: (01:33)
Sit down and just to speak a little on the podium.

Cory Booker: (01:35)
Whatever you want. You want to get one for these two beautiful men here?

Speaker 2: (01:41)
Yeah. I’ll do that. Do you guys want to stand or sit?

Cory Booker: (01:45)
Sit. Let’s sit. Whatever you guys want. Maybe standing is better. I think standing might be better.

Speaker 2: (01:56)
I don’t know how long you guys are going to be.

Cory Booker: (01:58)
I’m going to be the shortest you’ve ever heard.

Speaker 2: (01:59)
Oh come on.

Cory Booker: (02:03)
All right.

Speaker 2: (02:03)
So you’re all right standing?

Cory Booker: (02:04)
Yeah, I think we’re fine. I think we’re fine.

Speaker 2: (02:09)
Just got to stand far away. That’s all I know.

Cory Booker: (02:12)
I know Murphy and Cuomo are doing the sitting press conferences now. That’s now the in thing. That is sort of like the jacket of the last crisis we had. A little windbreaker. It’s not the sitting.

Speaker 2: (02:29)
Better. Those briefings tend to last to an hour and half, two hours. Long time to be standing.

Cory Booker: (02:33)
Yeah. This is not because, one of my favorite moments during Hurricane Sandy, if you can say it’s a favorite moment. We were in the Cavan Center in Newark and we were the best I’ve ever seen my team just do round the clock. Getting things done. But it was already people talking about me running for Senate and my chief of staff comes up to me and says, “You know, if you were a United States Senator right now, you’d be in the way.” So I know that these are the guys, every moment that are doing significant work in first responding. So.

Speaker 2: (03:15)
Stay out their way.

Cory Booker: (03:16)
No, my job is to shovel him as much resources as I possible can.

Bob Menendez: (03:20)
And that’s what I need. That’s exactly what I need.

Cory Booker: (03:25)
And anytime that he tells me to troubleshoot for him something, I just do it. I’m the servant of the leader.

Steve: (03:45)
Okay, good. Have you been raising money or campaigning? Are there plans in the near future?

Bob Menendez: (03:50)
No.

Cory Booker: (03:50)
Let me help you. So people are still occasionally giving money to us and [inaudible 00:03:57].

Speaker 3: (03:54)
How are you doing?

Speaker 2: (03:54)
How are you Senator?

Bob Menendez: (03:54)
Doing well.

Speaker 2: (03:59)
Good to see you. [crosstalk 00:04:02].

Cory Booker: (04:05)
Senator Menendez. Namaste sir. I’m ready.

Bob Menendez: (04:10)
Okay.

Steve: (04:11)
Heads up everybody, here we go.

Bob Menendez: (04:15)
Steve, did you do this for everybody already?

Steve: (04:17)
We are ready. Yes.

Bob Menendez: (04:18)
All right.

Cory Booker: (04:18)
Thank you anyway.

Steve: (04:19)
Thank you Senator.

Cory Booker: (04:19)
Thank you.

Bob Menendez: (04:22)
You’re welcome. Well. First of all, I hope that you’re all well and your families and your coworkers are well, and I appreciate the County executive hosting us. We’re at the epicenter of, unfortunately, Bergen County is known for so many great things, but right now we’re at the epicenter of our challenge. So appreciate you hosting us here. Appreciate the sheriff and the clerk being with us as well. And of course my colleague and combatant in arms, Senator Booker has been extraordinary in the work that we’ve done. And I hope that we’re all, at the end of the day, back at home, observing the very essence of what is necessary to beat the virus and to starve it off which is the social distancing that is so critical. And the intergenerational responsibility we have to each other. Because you can be young and think that you’re invincible, but you could also be carrying the virus and spread it to your parents, your grandparents, your family members, or those you love.

Bob Menendez: (05:30)
So this is one in which we are either part of the solution or we become part of the statistics and we want to be part of the solution. I’m glad to be here with Senator Booker to talk about how the 2 trillion Coronavirus response package passed by Congress last week is beginning to deliver urgently needed funds to Bergen County and communities across New Jersey in their hour of need. Today we’re announcing the first trunch of federal grant dollars, over 82 million, to help our towns and cities with everything from paying first responders to preventing evictions to protecting services to the most vulnerable.

Bob Menendez: (06:14)
Before I get to some of the specifics of the grant monies and how it works, let me just say a few words about COVID-19 and the scope of the challenge facing our state and the nation. When I look back at my nearly three decades in Congress between the house and the Senate, I think about the enormous challenges we faced. I was there on September 11th. I was there during the financial crisis of 2008. Superstorm Sandy in 2012. We have been through a lot. But I can tell you that COVID-19 is unlike anything that we have encountered before. The number of cases is rising. The toll on our hospitals, doctors, nurses, and our providers is growing and too many people are dying. The best strategies for defeating this pandemic: practicing social distancing, limiting public gatherings, closing down businesses. All of them come with a heavy cost for our economy.

Bob Menendez: (07:17)
I know the economy’s on the top of mind for many Americans, but it’s important to remember that the wealth of the nation will only improve with the health of the nation. And that health brings confidence and that’s critical for the economics of the country to succeed. I’ve seen the CDC projections for what would happen if the United States abandoned the tough social distancing measures necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and none of us, none of us, I believe, want to accept the consequences of doing that and the numbers that would be involved. The death toll would not be in the thousands or even in the hundreds of thousands. It would be in the millions. So we all have to take the social distancing seriously because as I said before, we’re either going to be part of the solution or part of the statistics. Let me recognize New Jersey’s nurses, doctors, first responders, hospital workers who are on the front lines and in the trenches of this battle, sometimes risking in their own lives and the deep concern of coming home and extending the possibility of infecting families.

Bob Menendez: (08:33)
This is an extraordinary group of people doing extraordinary things. Our grocery store workers, police officers, pharmacists, firefighters, also on the front lines. That’s why during the negotiations around the stimulus package, Senator Booker and I demanded that it included help for our hospitals and health care workers working around the clock to save lives. Some people said, “Well, why didn’t you all just agree very quickly?” The answer was had we agreed very quickly to what was presented to us, the Marshall plan that we started putting funding for $100 billion for hospitals and healthcare workers would not have existed. What we’re going to talk about today, CDBG, grants would not have existed. The state stabilization fund was nonexistent. Non-existent. They wouldn’t put zero towards it. So that’s why we had to fight. We also demanded, and this Senator Booker was one of the leaders in the Senate on this issue, direct payments to families, forgivable loans for small businesses.

Bob Menendez: (09:39)
So he sits on the small business committee and better unemployment compensation for people out of work. And finally we demanded that it deliver federal dollars to our communities on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 like right here in Bergen County. At the start of these negotiations, the other side was eager to pass a bill that didn’t send a dime to state and local governments, but Corey and I knew that it would be unacceptable. In recent weeks, we’ve heard from hundreds of mayors, we’ve conducted some conference calls twice now with mayors across the state and public officials from across New Jersey, and it’s clear they’re facing a one two punch.

Bob Menendez: (10:19)
Demand for essential local services like emergency response, rental assistance, mental health care services, and more is going through the roof at the very same time that their revenues to pay for them are plummeting like never before.

Bob Menendez: (10:32)
We refuse to leave our communities behind. After all, it’s not big corporations answering 911 calls or enforcing social distancing or setting up the new testing sites. It’s our state and local governments. During a time of crisis, only the federal government has the resources to step in and help cash strapped communities avoid painful and harmful choices like laying off first responders or closing down local health departments just when we need them the most.

Bob Menendez: (11:04)
So I’m proud that Senator Booker and I and our Democratic colleagues stood our ground. We fought back and in the end we secured billions of dollars in additional aid for state and local governments including $3.44 billion in state stabilization funds from New Jersey. We also fought to boost funding for federal programs, proven to strengthen our communities, which is what brings us here today. We’re pleased to announce the release of $82 million in grants for the department of housing and urban development with the largest infusion of over $8.3 million coming to the front lines of our fight against COVID-19 right here in Bergen County.

Bob Menendez: (11:40)
All told, $53.7 million and community development block grants will flow to cities and counties throughout New Jersey. CDBGs are among the most effective tools we have to help our communities meet the of our residents. And we cut a whole lot of red tape in this bill so that local leaders can immediately put these dollars to work in the fight against COVID-19, whether it’s keeping our health departments fully staffed or retrofitting facilities or creating testing facilities or providing grants to struggling business and nonprofits. In addition, $26.5 million in emergency solutions grants will go to rental assistance, eviction prevention and anti homelessness programs.

Bob Menendez: (12:27)
And I’m urging the Trump administration to… Is that [inaudible 00:12:43]? And I’m urging the Trump administration to rapidly release the remaining $26 million in ESG grants slated for New Jersey as humanly possible. Finally, we’re also announcing another $2 million statewide for the housing opportunities for persons with AIDS or [HOTWOT 00:13:04] Program to make sure that our most vulnerable immuno compromised residents are not left out in the cold. And you better believe that we’ll continue to fight to deliver a more healthful New Jersey in the weeks to come.

Bob Menendez: (13:17)
As I said, from the start of the crisis in the midst of a global pandemic, we cannot defeat this challenge if the state and local communities are doing it alone. The federal government has to be in the fight and that means not just dealing with large corporations. We have to put people first and that’s what today’s funding is all about. Making sure our local governments can continue to protect, support, and serve the people.

Bob Menendez: (13:41)
There’s only one way we’re going to get through this crisis and that’s together. That’s what makes us Jersey storm. We support each other, we fight for each other and all of us make sacrifices for the greater good. Believe me, I know how hard it is to socially distance, especially from the ones we love. Last week when I returned to New Jersey after weeks in Washington, I had to stand six feet away from my grandchild, when all I wanted to do was hug them close. But as I said before, we can either be part of the solution or part of the statistics. I’m confident that today’s federal grants will be a shot in the arm for local governments across New Jersey working tirelessly to be part of the solution. This is not the end. This is an imperfect piece of legislation.

Bob Menendez: (14:36)
It is not everything that we wanted, and it’s not everything that we are still going to fight for. We’re going to have to go at it again. And we believe that risk and actual challenges that emanate as New Jersey is now number two in the nation, that that needs to be the measurement by which we dole out federal dollars moving forward. With that, my colleague who’s been an extraordinary-

Bob Menendez: (15:03)
-fighter, some critical positions, small business on the advocacy for individual payments and so much more, Senator Cory Booker.

Cory Booker: (15:12)
Thank you.

Cory Booker: (15:14)
It’s good to be here in Bergen County, my home county. I want to give acknowledgement to the incredible leadership of this county, who are doing an extraordinary job, who are literally going around the clock dealing with this crisis. I want to thank Senator Menendez. He and I have been working in partnership now for over six years together. I’ve seen him from Hurricane Sandy, through health challenges, through facing our country through economic crises. He is just an incredible leader, but he has been at his best, his best in this crisis. And today we are giving some more detail to the announcement of literally getting billions of dollars for the state of New Jersey. That was our fight and the original bill that was presented in the Senate was inadequate to help our state. And we stood in the breach along with colleagues of ours, refuse to vote on a bill that would not give the critical aid that our state needs.

Cory Booker: (16:18)
And now this bill has so much more in it for New Jersey, for New Jersey families, New Jersey businesses, and our state and local governance. As Senator Menendez said, we have had conversations with nonprofit leaders, business leaders, hospital leaders detailing the billions of dollars that are now coming to our state. There are areas of this bill that are critical, whether it’s support for our state’s food banks that are being over challenged, support for people with federal loans, even support for people who have rental payments into multifamily buildings that have federal mortgages. For those folks and others, that loan forbearance is absolutely critical. This is a time for all of us to step up and do the best we can.

Cory Booker: (17:03)
And we are grateful, Senator Menendez and I, that for our firefighters and police officers, first responders, for our hospitals, for our County executives and others, they now have a lot more resources. That said, this is still not enough. Senator Menendez and I know this was an imperfect bill. It was a result of a compromise. The state of New Jersey who sends more taxpayer dollars back down to Washington than we get in return, we are going to continue to fight to get those critical resources that this state needs. In addition to that, Senator Menendez and I are fighting in line with our governor to get critical PPE for our state, ventilators for our state, and other things to empower our first responders in this crisis. We are continuing to demand that this president step up and use his power and authority to help people in New Jersey and across this nation. That means everything from using the Defense Production Act to better marshal federal resources. And to end really the agony of having governors be bidding against each other for critical resources, all the way to doing the common sense things of helping more Americans access health insurance during this time.

Cory Booker: (18:18)
We were already working, Senator Menendez and my offices, to prepare for a potential fourth package of aid and support, that it needs to include much more help and support for our nation, for our economy, and frankly for executives like our Bergen County executive and our local towns here and across the state to get them the resources that they need. This is the time for all of us to understand, we all have to do our part. We all have to take responsibility. I’m asking all of those New Jerseyans to follow the instructions of our governor, to stay hunkered down and healthy. I’m asking all New Jerseyans to do what you can to support other people. You have the resources and the means, do something for others, whether it’s supporting a local food bank, whether it’s reaching out to shelters. There are many in New Jersey that are in need, that even with this multibillion dollar package of support, more needs to be done. And this is the time in this unprecedented challenge where we’ve never seen a greater challenge to our country in our lifetimes, this is the time for all of us to rise up.

Cory Booker: (19:24)
We may be isolated from each other, but let’s stand together and show that we are Jersey strong. I’m honored now to bring on our County executive who indeed embodies Jersey strength. He himself has served as a first responder. He himself has led this County through challenges and crises all around our towns and I’m grateful to have him here today to share some remarks, then I want to open it up. And then Senator Menendez will open it up for questions for us to address any individual concerns or aspects of this package that folks might have questions about. County executive Tedesco, I’m going to take the high road. You take the low road, sir.

Tedesco: (20:05)
Thank you, Senator. Let me just take a moment to recognize the chairwoman of the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Mary Amoroso for being with us.

Tedesco: (20:16)
First and foremost, I would like to thank the US senators, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, two friends, two friends that I’ve known for a long time that work tirelessly along with our congressional delegation to help get this funding for Bergen County and the state of New Jersey.

Tedesco: (20:37)
With most of the COVID-19 cases and related deaths in New Jersey, Bergen County is in a crisis and we need the resources to protect our residents, first responders, and healthcare professionals as we fight this dangerous virus. The stimulus package will help provide personal protective equipment, PPE, and other chronic critical supplies for those on the front lines of this war. And I say war, because this is a war against the virus. We are fighting a battle of Bergen today, the battle of Bergen, the battle of New Jersey, to win this war. We need people to stay home. We can win this war. We will win this war, but we need everybody’s help.

Tedesco: (21:32)
Just in the last 24 hours, I’ve received two phone calls. An uncle has passed away. A friend, who’s an employee here for the county, his wife passed away last night. In 24 hours, two people that I know close to me have been affected by this virus. Today, this county probably will pass 4,000 positive, presumptive positive case, more than most states in the nation here in this county.

Tedesco: (22:20)
This war will be won, but the battle is fought every day and it’s help like this that is going to get us to win those battles. As of yesterday, 75 Bergen County family members have succumb to this virus and we know that that number is even greater today. Unfortunately, those numbers will not only increased today but will increase tomorrow and the day after and the day after. And the battle will continue, but with the help of all of you and our elected officials, we will win the war. We will get through this together. It is important that we continue to work together. Local, state, federal, working side by side to do the things necessary to win the battles. The stimulus package will help residents battling terrible disease. First responders and healthcare professionals on the front lines, as well as our six hospitals, six medical centers in this county. Every one is filled to capacity, needing ventilators, needing PPE. Just last week, the county delivered two pallets of PPE to all six hospitals from donations that we collected from people around this County.

Tedesco: (24:17)
We need to help those that are struggling and this bill will. We just need to continue to fight and win the battle. I want to thank Senator Menendez and Senator Booker for not being just my friend, but for being there when we need them. We can count on them. They have our backs and that’s what’s important about elected officials having those other’s backs. I’m just glad to be able to stand here today and listen to what they’ve told us and how they fought for us here in Bergen County, because it means a lot. It means a lot to the millions of people that live here and travel through here. You know, this county is the economic engine of the state of New Jersey. This county supplies more taxes to the state than any other county in the state. So we have a battle on our hands over here to win the war against the virus.

Tedesco: (25:26)
And we have another challenge over here that we got to keep that economic importance in the forefront. And having bills like this will help us. I’m glad to hear that they said that they’re going to go back and look for more, because we need more. And II thank you that both senators for that. Again, let me say thank you. Thank you to the two senators, but most of all, let me thank the first responders here in Bergen County and across the state, our healthcare workers, those that are supplying the food chain, and also to the Bergen County health department and the health officers that around this county because you’re the ones that are standing up helping us. We will win the war. And I thank you.

Cory Booker: (26:19)
Questions?

Speaker 4: (26:24)
I have two for both the senators. The first is do you think that New Jersey should move it two primaries to be entirely mail in ballots?

Cory Booker: (26:35)
Why don’t you give us the second as well?

Speaker 4: (26:36)
Yeah, sure. And then the second is, do you think the Democratic National Convention should be conducted electronically in this crisis?

Cory Booker: (26:48)
So as far as the Democratic National Convention, I can probably tell you this, speaking for Bob, neither of us have given that much thought to it. We’re in the middle of a crisis here in our state and that is a very far from our mind. My advice would be to follow healthcare professionals and whatever they’re advising for us to do. We’ve seen Wimbledon come down, the Olympics come down. We should do what healthcare providers are doing. As far as the June primary, again, I’m on the ballot. I’m not giving that much thought to that right now. Every single day, and I know this because our teams are in contact even late into the night, all of us, it’s just all hands on deck to deal with that.

Cory Booker: (27:27)
The final thing I’m going to say is that the election should go on in November. During the Civil War, we had presidential election. During the pandemic of 1918, we had elections in this country and that’s something that’s essential to our country. The fact that we will find a way to go forward and make sure that we hold elections in this country. That November election is very critical that we get that done. Now, Senator Menendez and I did do something in this package along with our colleagues, which was to make sure that there were resources for the state of New Jersey. Literally getting millions of dollars into this state to help with making sure the elections go forward. More should be done. If we have to shift to mail in ballots, the state should get more and more resources.

Cory Booker: (28:16)
So elections are essential as far. As primaries are concerned, it’s not an immediate concern of mine. I know the governor is thinking hard about this. We should follow the advice of medical professionals. Our elections should continue. And what Senator Menendez and I do, have been fighting before the coronavirus to give more resources to our state for election security, because should the federal government be providing more states and localities to do vote by mail and other operations.

Speaker 5: (28:43)
Are you going to have further conversations with President Trump?

Bob Menendez: (28:51)
Well, we’re happy to talk to anybody in terms of making this happen, but our drive is to talk to our colleagues in the Congress who are the driving force before putting these packages together and who have a very nitty gritty sense of what is necessary on the ground to meet the challenge. So bottom line is we’ve been in communication with Vice President Pence’s office, because he is the head of the coronavirus task force. So when we’ve made the urgent demand for personal protective equipment, for ventilators, for having FEMA, which came and stood up some of the testing sites, we’ve directed it at his office. But our goal at the end of the day is having heard, since we came back, Cory and I conducted two teleconference to across the state. We had over 300, 350 mayors I think on that call. We’ve talked to a whole bunch of county executives. We have hospitals that we’ve talked to. We’ve just literally gone-

Bob Menendez: (30:03)
-through the whole breadth and scope of all who face this challenge. Earlier today I was with the governor when the Army Corps of Engineers opened up one of our new field sites and hospital beds, so the 250 hospital beds in Secaucus. We’re going to continue to be informed by those who are on the front line, take that, and fight for them in Washington, convey to the administration what we need, and what we should be doing. But our focus is driving the legislation that is necessary to bring the resources and responses to what we need. Yes.

Audience: (30:38)
What are your thoughts on reports that protective gear to the national stockpile is nearly depleted? Number one. And number two, that the federal maintenance contract has [inaudible 00:30:47] some of the ventilators in the stockpile are no longer working?

Bob Menendez: (30:51)
Well if those reports are in fact true, then it would be a national chain. I would say that regardless of who sits in the White House. The reality is is that in the greatest country on the face of the earth, we should be able to be prepared in a way for anything. That’s why I regret I had funded, as the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, we had funded the Global Pandemic Unit that was part of both the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the National Security Council in 2018, the administration dissolved both of them. That was a mistake. Maybe we didn’t have a global pandemic in 2018, but you set yourself up to be ready for whenever it hits. Risk mitigation in a business. Well, in terms of the public health, risk mitigation. So you have to have your national stockpile ready. You not only have to have stockpile, you have to have it functioning. So it would be pretty outrageous.

Bob Menendez: (31:57)
Lastly, this is a time that I think that the point that I’ve made several times in the past. Number one, I called upon the president early on, Cory did, to invoke the Defense Production Act early on. Early on. It is a law that allows the federal government to harness the power of our industrial base in our companies to ultimately produce what we need in a time of emergency. It’s finally been invoked, but it needed to be invoked and it needs to be maximized in its implementation. This is where the government either says to a company, “This is what you’re going to do and this is all you’re going to do and we will fund it if it’s necessary. If you have people in the supply chain, you need to produce that personal protective gear.” We’re going to tell them, “This is what you must do.” That’s the way in which you harness the power of the federal government at the end of the day. But it would be outrageous if what happened was that those ventilators that we are struggling to get cannot function because they were not maintained. It would just be simply unacceptable.

Audience: (33:03)
Senator Booker. A question for you please on the Affordable Care and open enrollment. You had called for the administration to reopen the enrollment. What’s the status of that?

Cory Booker: (33:15)
I just want to piggy back on what Bob said about some other things. First of all, Bob says [inaudible 00:03:18]. There’s two people in the Senate that lead on foreign relations. It’s the Republican chairman, and it’s Bob Menendez. Those are our leaders on foreign relations. What I want to say about what Bob leadership has done for the Senate is he abides by the Wayne Gretzky rules, not to skate where the puck is, but to anticipate where the puck is going to be. We have been proactive in the past on these issues, global pandemics. The unfortunate thing is this is administration that it had weakened our ability to respond should a pandemic come. Well, a pandemic did come. So now we have modeling. The sizes just told us with varying degrees of where exactly it’s going to be, but an anticipation of how bad things are going to get here in New Jersey. It is going to get worse. It is going to get much worse. We are heading into the peak of this that hopefully is sometime mid this month. Which means nationally they’re estimating upwards of thousands of people dying a day.

Cory Booker: (34:25)
Now those aren’t statistics. Those are people. We lost two medical professionals yesterday. A few days ago we lost a 33 year old firefighter, a father of two, to this virus. It is time for us to be far more proactive and to use all the authority of the federal government to meet this crisis. It shouldn’t take Senator Menendez and I demanding that this president use the powers of this Defense Production Act to get him to use it. He should’ve invoked it right when we had medical professionals telling us how bad this is going to get.

Cory Booker: (35:03)
So here’s what I know. The demand for medical services is not going to go away in April. The healthcare challenges of our state and our nation are not going to go away in May. We have millions of Americans that are not insured right now. Millions. Do not tell me this is about cost. We are the wealthiest country on the planet earth. Every one here in a health crisis should have access to healthcare. The simple request that this president open up the enrollment for the Affordable Care Act is common sense. To not do so is cruel. There are thousands of New Jerseyans who don’t have health insurance that if we opened up the enrollment period, they would be able to get affordable health insurance to help them with any of the costs related to this pandemic or frankly to any other health issues.

Cory Booker: (36:04)
We have got to start looking ahead of the curve now and anticipating the needs of our citizenry. Senator Menendez and I, things we fought for since we’ve been in government, since I was a mayor, since he was a mayor. Common sense, things like paid sick leave, like unemployment insurance that is more inclusive. These are things that are not entitlements given to folks. We now know these are national security issues, that the health and wellbeing of our country having housing for homeless, having paid family leave. All of these things are now national security issues. It is time that our country understands that. It’s in our economic interest, our moral interest, and our health and wellbeing to do these things.

Cory Booker: (36:53)
So yes, I am demanding, not calling upon, demanding that the president of the United States open up the enrollment period so that millions of Americans who are eligible can sign up and get affordable healthcare to help to make sure that they and their families are safe and healthy, that they do preventative care measures that ultimately will not just save us money but will save lives.

Audience: (37:16)
What if President Trump says no?

Cory Booker: (37:19)
Then we need to make sure that Congress… Senator Menendez. For me, it was fascinating to watch Republicans who resisted things for a long time suddenly come on board. The things like direct cash payments. I’m just hoping. These aren’t left or right issues. These are right or wrong issues. So for every New Jerseyan, they should be reaching out to their Congress person, we should have a chorus of demands that Americans have health coverage. We can do that.

Cory Booker: (37:51)
I demanded the president open up enrollment. I asked New Jerseyans to join with me in this demand. These are not political issues. These are about people’s health and safety and wellbeing. God, in a crisis, we don’t turn against each other. We turn to each other. We don’t. We don’t turn our neighbor out to the cold. We help them. In wartime, in the aftermath of 9/11, heck in Hurricane Sandy, Americans were opening up their houses, letting people come in. That’s who we are. Compassion, empathy, standing up for each other. That’s the American way. To be the wealthiest nation on the planet earth while our competitor, industrial nations people have health care, they always had paid family leave. For us to be catching up to them, that’s not acceptable to me. So it is time for Americans to be able to access affordable healthcare. It’s time for New Jerseyans to be able to do that. Open up the enrollment period, Mr. President. Open it up so that all Americans can be covered.

Audience: (38:57)
Senator?

Cory Booker: (38:58)
Yes.

Audience: (38:59)
Today is World Autism Day, and I’m an autism mom, and it just happens that I happen to come here. I’m a county worker and I had to pick up something from the office. First of all, you guys are doing a tremendous job just as a citizen of our county or state. You guys have been wonderful. But specifically including our [inaudible 00:39:15] executive. I have an adult son with autism and aggression history. You guys have been huge supporters of the autism community. New Jersey has the highest rate of autism in the country. The CDC, which nobody even noticed, the rates just got worse in New Jersey. Of course because of the virus nobody noticed but it was not reported on.

Audience: (39:33)
But right now, I have friends and families who have adult children with autism and [inaudible 00:39:41]. Right now I have a group home in [inaudible 00:39:43] that three adults, three health care workers are infected. The agencies are not able to get the PPEs to the health care providers that are working with a very vulnerable population, the highest in the country we have in New Jersey. Now three people are out, and we have nonverbal autistic adults, aggressive autistic adults that if they get sick and end up in the hospital, the staff is not trained to deal with them. Then I can’t be there to help speak to my son and keep him calm if he’s sick and doesn’t know what a ventilator is and a doctor or a nurse need to work with him. This is going to make a bad situation very worse.

Audience: (40:22)
It just happens to be World Autism Day, April 2nd. We need you guys to continue your fight to help us with our very vulnerable, and Paul Aronson, he’s doing a fabulous job, [inaudible 00:10:34], but they have to get the PPE so that they can protect our guys and our adult autistic loved ones to not end up in the hospital where they won’t be able to be helped properly. Please help us.

Bob Menendez: (40:48)
Well, first of all, thank you for raising it and I understand the struggle. Maybe nobody else noticed, but as the sponsor of the Autism Cares Law that came to federal law, I did notice that the rates unfortunately got even wider for us compared to-

Audience: (41:04)
One in 32.

Bob Menendez: (41:05)
One in 31. In this bill, we’re not talking about this today because we were focused on something else, but there are education dollars that we hope and are engaged with the governor in terms of how they use those dollars, particularly for communities that face a special challenge within the context of this overall challenge and the autism community is a big part of it.

Audience: (41:30)
The adult group [inaudible 00:11:33].

Bob Menendez: (41:33)
Well for me, it’s always across the spectrum, right?

Audience: (41:36)
But I mean education dollars won’t help the adult group.

Bob Menendez: (41:39)
No, under the care act now we have extended autism services for a lifelong commitment, which is true. Before that you had a certain date and you were off. Now it extends it, so we can use some of those dollars to help in that type of a setting. We are engaged with the state to talk about how do they create the capacity for those group homes and for others on the autism spectrum that would face within this context a special challenge. Of course in fairness to the governor, I would just simply say he’s overwhelmed with everything. I think he’s doing a fantastic job as the county executive. Made tough decisions here in Bergen County that people criticized but his history will go down and they saved lives. We need to save lives in this regard as well.

Audience: (42:28)
Can home health aides be considered first responders [inaudible 00:42:31] the testing [inaudible 00:42:31]?

Bob Menendez: (42:32)
We are looking at the dimensions as how do we best deal with it. But in the first instance we need to be able to address them.

Audience: (42:37)
We need to have equipment or our loved ones cannot end up in the hospital without us there.

Speaker 7: (42:42)
To answer that question, we’ve allowed it for anyone in health care. So it doesn’t have to be a nurse or an LPN or a PA or anything.

Audience: (42:52)
Any way they can get the PPE they need so that they protect our guys?

Speaker 7: (42:57)
Every day I am out there trying to get people to donate. We got a small shipment from the state, from the federal government that’s been distributed. Today, they’re distributing to every town in Bergen County. Today we started delivering all of that PPE to every town in Bergen County. Anybody that needs that, they know that they’re to contact their local OEM coordinator, wherever the group home is. They should be contacting the OEM coordinator for that local municipality. They’ll pass it up to the county and then we’ll prioritize that and get them whatever we have.

Audience: (43:34)
There are a lot of groups homes in Bergen County.

Speaker 7: (43:34)
There absolutely are. There’s a lot of nursing homes, a lot of longterm care homes.

Audience: (43:38)
They need to be up there with the nursing homes.

Speaker 7: (43:40)
I don’t disagree with you at all. We just need them to get us the information and we’ll get them everything we can. There’s no good reason why it should sit in the warehouse or in a garage. It needs to be out into the hands of the people.

Bob Menendez: (43:53)
[inaudible 00:43:54]. To follow up on that though [inaudible 00:13:56].

Speaker 6: (43:56)
Hold on a minute. So we don’t have a… That’s okay. You’ve asked several questions. Is there anyone else? Because we’re about ready to wrap this up.

Audience: (44:06)
Can you talk about the new unemployment numbers?

Bob Menendez: (44:06)
Who has not asked a question. I’m sorry.

Audience: (44:08)
Can you talk about the new unemployment numbers today?

Bob Menendez: (44:11)
Yes. Thank you for raising it. You’re welcome to join separately, but… I like you, but [inaudible 00:14:19]. Look, the numbers have hit nationally record highs. This is why we fought, and I particularly was one of the negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee, negotiating with Secretary Mnuchin for a robust unemployment package because we knew what was coming and we would not have gotten what we did. We don’t like anybody on unemployment, but we know that under these circumstances, there is going to be a surge on the unemployment demand, which is why we insisted on a $250 billion package that-

Bob Menendez: (45:03)
…extends for 13 weeks. The unemployment insurance payments normally is 26. It extends it for 13 weeks, and this next thing I’m about to say was so critical for so many of our families. For the next four months, they will get, in addition to the baseline of whatever their normal unemployment benefit would be in New Jersey, they will get an additional $ 600 per week. That is to help them sustain through this period of time and meet some of their challenges. But our goal, ultimately, and we also have benefits in there for companies to retain their workers or to furlough them, but not let them go permanently, so that when we are clear, they will have the human capital go back to work among other provisions.

Bob Menendez: (45:55)
But this did not exist except for our fight, so when people say, “Why did you take days to come to an agreement?” There was no $150 billion for states and counties. There was no unemployment insurance anywhere near this, and unfortunately this is where we were. Now, our goal is as soon as possible, which is why we put in about $300 plus billion dollars for small businesses, our goal is not to have people on unemployment. Our goal is to have people working as soon as we can. That’s why Senator Booker, as a member of the small business community, I want to talk about that one provision. Get people off of unemployment, get them back to work and keep companies alive and give them benefits for keeping their employers.

Cory Booker: (46:42)
I’ll just make a quick comment and then let Senator Menendez close out. First of all, to the person who rightfully brought up the challenges of group homes. There are a lot of special needs populations in our state that are going to need resources. We have growing concerns with mental health issues in our state, domestic violence issues in our state. There is help for folks that have these kinds of concerns. Senator Menendez and I are doing a lot of outreach to nonprofits of all different types to try to make sure that they’re aware of the resources that are out there for them, including the small business provisions that are out there to help all small businesses but also nonprofits, religious groups to keep their employees, who are often doing lifesaving work or critical work, to keep their employees. So if you have a small business or a nonprofit that needs some support as your revenues might be declining, please find out about the small business grants that are out there to help people stay in touch and reach out to our office.

Cory Booker: (47:50)
Then the final thing I want to just say is Senator Menendez and my offices are resources for everyone. Our websites have a lot of information if folks are concerned. The unemployment numbers are staggering, not just for this nation, but they’re staggering for the states of New Jersey. Hundreds of thousands of new Jerseyans have been applying just in the last two weeks alone. For folks to know, we want a lot of gains there, not only to increase the floor of unemployment insurance like Senator Menendez said, but also to increase the populations that are eligible, including gig workers and self-employed workers. There’s a lot of resources out there. A lot of times it’s just knowing that you’re eligible, finding out ways to connect with that, and getting the information you need. We’re really inviting people to go to our websites or call our offices to find out to make sure that they’re included.

Cory Booker: (48:40)
For example, a lot of people might not think they’re eligible for the $1,200 checks and cash payments. Well, they are if they had filed taxes last year, but even if you didn’t file taxes last year, if you’re filing this year, you could find yourself eligible for those as well. The key here and the reason for this press conference is to let people know the resources we’re getting to our state and local governments, but also want to remind people that there’s a lot of resources for you as well. So I’m hoping that folks will take advantage of that. We literally have now, thanks to the work done in this bill, billions of dollars coming to the state of New Jersey, so please reach out. Avail yourself. Even if it doesn’t apply to you, help others get the information that they need. Use your social media platforms. Get the word out, and I can promise you this: Senator Menendez and I will not stop working until we can go back to Washington DC, hopefully, and get even more resources for the state of New Jersey. Thank you everybody [inaudible 00:04:42].

Speaker 9: (49:41)
Senator, what about homeless with no federal income that haven’t done any taxes in years. Or GA, general assistance. Will they be able to get the stimulus too?

Bob Menendez: (49:54)
If they are on general assistance, I don’t believe they’ll get the stimulus check, but we can look on the homeless question. One of the things that we talked about that I mentioned about today is that there’s a special emergency grant going to the largest cities for people who are homeless and to help them through this period of time as a targeted population. But I’m not sure that the bill actually provides for a stimulus check to be sent directly to someone who is homeless and has no income, although there is a provision that, and we’ll have to look at. Let me get … Before I speak, I want to make sure when I say something.

Speaker 9: (50:38)
Thank you.

Bob Menendez: (50:38)
I’m happy to get back to you.

Speaker 10: (50:39)
Senator, could you respond to the President Trump’s tweets this morning about certain government leaders being complainers?

Bob Menendez: (50:50)
I don’t think Jim Tedesco is a complainer. I don’t think Governor Murphy’s a complainer. I think they’re fighting for the people they represent, and they’re doing everything possible to work collaboratively at the end of the day to make sure that we save lives. That’s what we’re doing, all of us. We’re trying to do things to save lives and get people through a difficult period of time. Now, making demands of your government at a time in which there is great need is not complaining. Making demands of your government is the very essence of what our democracy is all about. We have people make demands on us all the time. They’re exasperated, they’re desperate. They want to see the PPE for their loved ones, for the first responders, for everybody. We get it. I don’t consider them complainers. This is a time to rise up, to lead, to show empathy and to do everything that is within your power and the most powerful nation to respond. To request to do that is not a question of complaining.

Bob Menendez: (52:05)
Finally, let me just say, I’m sure Cory has the same thing on his page. There’s a lot more that we didn’t talk about that is available to citizens. In my page, it’s menendez.senate.gov/coronavirus, and under that, you’ll get information on direct payments, on employment, small business, and a whole host of other things. I’m sure Cory has a similar page as well.

Cory Booker: (52:29)
Senate Booker. The same thing.

Bob Menendez: (52:30)
The same thing, but booker.senate.gov.