Amy On The Issues
Rebuilding South Jersey’s Economy
The COVID-19 pandemic is solidifying the fact that we have two South Jerseys: one that is wealthy and will continue to have jobs and health care throughout this crisis, and another that is struggling to provide for their families, make a living wage and might never recover.
As we begin to re-open society and move toward whatever our new “normal” will become, we cannot afford another recovery that leaves some people behind and only benefits others.
More than ever for South Jersey and for our country, leadership matters. We need leaders, at the national, state and local levels who will fight to help our country and our community build back better and stronger—so that everyone has access to good-paying jobs in safe workplaces; so that children born in Atlantic City have the same chance of success as kids in other parts of the district; and everyone who works hard still has the right to retire with dignity.
In Congress, I will fight to make families whole from the economic catastrophe caused by the coronavirus, leading efforts to create jobs, help small businesses, support working families, and build a stronger, more equal economy in South Jersey.
Support Working Families
Working families have been falling behind for decades because of stagnating wages, growing inequality, and the skyrocketing cost of health and childcare. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these trends, devastating millions. We need bold solutions to help working families get ahead and recover.
In Congress, I will fight to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. These important programs put more money in the pockets of middle-class and low-income families, making sure that parents can keep up with the rising cost of basic necessities. They are also proven to increase employment and reduce poverty and inequality.
I am proud to endorse the Working Families Tax Relief Act, which will expand both programs and allow more than 1 million families in New Jersey to keep more of what they earn. I am also proud to endorse the American Family Act, which will dramatically expand the Child Tax Credit to make sure that parents can keep up with the rising cost of housing, healthcare, and childcare. This ambitious but commonsense proposal would cut child poverty in half nationwide.
Additionally, I will co-sponsor the Raise the Wage Act, which by raising the federal minimum wage will increase the incomes of more than 33 million Americans.
And I will work to update our labor laws to restore the right to overtime work for overtime pay. Because the federal overtime law isn’t indexed to the cost of living, far too many low- and middle-income workers have been left without a right to be paid more for working more. By expanding overtime protections, Congress can give millions of hard-working Americans a well-deserved raise.
Help Small Businesses Lead the Recovery
Small and independent businesses are the backbone of our South Jersey community and they have been devastated by COVID-19. While vital, the emergency loan programs funded by Congress have not done enough, especially for businesses in New Jersey. Unprecedented leadership, investment, and support is necessary for our independent business community to survive and thrive.
In Congress, I will fight to foster a small business-led recovery, one that creates and protects jobs, wealth, and opportunity across South Jersey—including through:
- Direct grants to small and independent businesses to help them recover.
- Assistance targeted to historically-underrepresented businesses and to microbusinesses with fewer than 20 employees.
- Support for small- and mid-sized farmers, fishers, and producers.
- Increased funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which provide loans to local small businesses.
- Reforms and investments to expand small businesses’ access to credit and capital.
- Debt-forbearance programs for independent businesses and agricultural producers.
Invest in Infrastructure
Everyone who wants to work should have the right to full-time employment. To get there, Congress needs to do much more to support job creation, especially as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. And they should start by rebuilding our infrastructure, from our roads, bridges, and bulkheads, to our drinking water system and electric grid.
Infrastructure investment is one of the best ways to boost our economy, create good-paying jobs, and attract and support local businesses. Yet President Trump and Congressional Republicans have done nothing to advance it. I will work every day to secure the major infrastructure investments we need for our district, including in:
- The infrastructure South Jersey needs to protect our shoreline, including by repairing and replacing bulkheads, seawalls, dams, and levees to prevent and minimize the damage from floods and storms.
- Schools, to meet both physical and digital infrastructure needs. I support the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which will invest more than $100 billion to rebuilding crumbling schools while creating nearly 2 million good-paying jobs.
- Energy, both to address costs—which are among the highest in the nation—and to transition to low- and no-carbon fuels.
- Resiliency, which our coastal district must prioritize every time we repair or upgrade our infrastructure or public buildings.
Update and Strengthen Our Unemployment System
More than 1 million New Jerseyans have filed unemployment claims since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Yet thanks to an under resources and antiquated unemployment insurance system, thousands of desperate workers were forced to wait weeks to receive the benefits they were owed.
New Jersey is sadly not unique. Over the past 11 weeks, nearly 43 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Our current unemployment insurance system isn’t built to withstand this crisis, nor is it built to protect employment or speed economic recovery.
In Congress, I will support efforts to establish an employment insurance system—one that allows businesses to keep workers employed part-time instead of laying them off, with the government making up the difference in lost wages. Twenty-seven states have already established employment insurance, or work-share, programs, but Congress needs to do more to help the remaining states establish them and to reward and compensate businesses and states for participating. That way, workers can keep their jobs and their benefits during economic downturns, and businesses can ramp up more quickly as the economy recovers.
Vice President Biden has put forward a plan for transitioning to employment insurance, and I fully support it.
Make Childcare Affordable
We have a childcare crisis in New Jersey. Childcare costs more than $10,000 a year on average, and across the country, COVID-19 has brought our fragile childcare system to the brink of collapse. Making childcare affordable and accessible is critical to helping New Jerseyans return to work as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
While parents can already get a tax credit if they spend money on childcare, the credit is capped too low and doesn’t benefit lower-income families. In Congress, I will work to give all working families a refundable childcare tax credit that actually offsets the cost of childcare. I will also support efforts to increase the federal investment in state childcare programs. And I will fight to make free preschool available to every child in America.
Strengthen and Reform Our Healthcare System
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of people to lose their jobs and their employer-sponsored health insurance. We cannot continue to tie health insurance to employment without providing greater protections, especially now, when it is vital that people receive coronavirus care. And we cannot continue to have a health care system where people get sick because they can’t afford to go to the doctor or go into debt to pay their hospital bills.
That is why I have put forward a comprehensive plan to make sure that everyone has access to local, quality, affordable health care—and why fighting to realize that plan will be my top priority in Congress.
Congress also needs to act immediately to establish a national COVID-19 testing and tracing strategy. It is outrageous that President Trump continues to oppose a national testing program, and that Republicans repeatedly tried to block Congress from funding coronavirus tests. Testing gives people the confidence they need to return to work, and to reopen restaurants and small businesses—and we cannot restart our economy without it.
Target Relief to Workers, Not Wall Street
Congress has provided COVID-19 relief loans and other assistance to businesses of all sizes, recognizing that companies large and small are dealing with a public health crisis not of their making. But when we provide federal aid to corporations, strings must be attached to that money. Stronger safeguards were needed to make sure that federal dollars flowed directly to workers—not to Wall Street or corporate executives.
In Congress, I will hold accountable corporations or financial institutions who have engaged in pandemic profiteering. I will oppose any efforts to give liability protections to big corporations who allowed their workers or customers to contract the coronavirus. I will work to repeal the outrageous $170 billion tax cut Congress gave real estate investors in the CARES Act. I support efforts to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to bailout fossil fuel companies who took on bad debts before COVID-19 hit. I also support strong oversight measures to ensure accountability and transparency in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. And I will fight to ensure that any future relief funding is kept out of the hands of wealthy investors who are only trying to enrich themselves.
End Hunger and Food Insecurity
Far too many families in our district faced food insecurity even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In Atlantic County, nearly one in five residents had run out of food and been unable to buy more, and nearly one in three could not afford to purchase healthy meals for their family. COVID-19 made these problems much worse, leaving our community food banks struggling to keep up with the rising demand for assistance.
I believe that no one should go hungry. I also believe that every family should have access to healthy, affordable food in their community. That’s why I will always fight to protect and expand funding for food stamps and other nutrition assistance programs, and to quickly ramp up these programs during emergencies like COVID-19. In addition to being one of the most effective ways to help families during recessions, food stamps benefit local retailers, who accepted nearly $1 billion in benefits last year; and local farmers, by driving demand for their products. I will also work to achieve universal access to free school meals, including during the summer months and during emergencies like COVID-19. And by fighting to raise wages and create jobs, I will work to ensure that all families in South Jersey can keep up with the rising cost of living.
Prepare for Future Crises
Programs like expanded unemployment insurance, expanded nutrition assistance, direct payments, and aid to states have been critical to responding to COVID-19. While Congress worked quickly to put these measures in place, emergency aid would have been even more effective had it kicked in automatically once the economy began to deteriorate. That’s why I will support efforts to incorporate “automatic stabilization” measures into key safety-net programs. These triggers ensure that additional benefits are made available to Americans quickly and automatically at the onset of an economic crisis. Similar automatic stabilizers should also be used to decide when to end expanded benefits, so that Americans can continue to access needed support until the economy is in recovery.