Trump Compliments New Jersey Virus Fight But Noncommittal on Aid

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said New Jersey’s coronavirus outbreak is trending well and complimented its Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, but didn’t commit to federal aid for the cash-strapped state in a White House meeting on Thursday.

Murphy traveled to Washington to press Trump for federal financial assistance to states in the next round of coronavirus-related stimulus.

“We’ve been crushed and we appreciate your consideration on the financial side,” Murphy said in the Oval Office. Trump responded that the state’s hospitals have been put under strain and he would work with Murphy on that issue.

Murphy later said his state may need $20 to $30 billion in aid.

“We don’t see this as a bailout. We see this as a partnership,” he said. Trump complimented Murphy’s leadership but didn’t explicitly commit to providing aid.

Trump has indicated some resistence to aiding states that have either large pension obligations under union contracts or those that include so-called “sanctuary cities,” where police and jails are prohibited from assisting federal immigration authorities in detaining and deporting unauthorized immigrants.

Earlier, Murphy defended his request in an interview on Fox News.

“This is a war. We are at the front lines,” Murphy, 62, said in the interview.

He said he would thank Trump for aid to states so far, but stressed the need for more to keep teachers, police, firefighters and others employed.

Murphy has said he’s spoken to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to try to loosen spending rules for $150 billion dedicated to cities and states. Federal guidance says that money may be used only for coronavirus-related purposes and not for budget matters.

New Jersey has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases after New York -- 116,000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. More than 6,700 people have died.

It also has the least-funded public pension among state governments, according to S&P Global Ratings, and its credit is second-worst in the U.S., behind Illinois. Murphy is asking state lawmakers to approve borrowing as much as $9 billion, via a new Federal Reserve vehicle and other sources, to plug budget holes for the current fiscal year and next.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.