RAHWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey mayors from nearly a dozen cities were on a conference call Tuesday requesting federal funding to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

CBS2’s Cory James found out more about the conversation and push from a state senator.

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Rahway Mayor Raymond Giacobbi picked up the phone Tuesday afternoon and jumped on a conference call with Sen. Robert Menendez and mayors from Paterson, Cherry Hill, Wayne, Hoboken, Galloway, New Brunswick, and Brick. All of them are in desperate need of financial help from the federal government as the COVID-19 crisis strains their budgets.

“We are on the front lines,” Giacobbi said.

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Giacobbi has had more than 600 positive cases in his township of roughly 30,000 people. So far, more than 30 of his residents have died from the virus and the resources to continue fighting the battle are hitting his community hard.

“It’s estimated within six weeks we’re probably close to half a million dollars in revenue lost,” Giacobbi said.


Other mayors on the call expressed the same concerns. They are worried about the impact the outbreak is going to have on funding law enforcement, small businesses, and education.

“It’s a perfect example of the challenge at this time,” Sen. Menendez said.

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Menendez recently unveiled a bipartisan $500 billion “State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition Fund — also known as SMART — to help state and local governments respond to the current public health and economic crisis. He said he believes this is going to help cities on the front lines fund essential services with little revenue coming in.

“We cannot afford in midst of a pandemic for them to let go police and firefighters and emergency management, paramedics. We need them more ever. We need to do this as part of our emergent response,” Menendez said.

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Mayor Keith Misciagna of Park Ridge was not on the conference call, but recognizes city reserves will quickly dry up if financial help is not sent. He’s doing what he can to cut back on spending by sharing resources with nine other mayors who are part of the Pascack Valley Mayors Association, but added that is not a long-term solution.

“We’re trying to save money on that because the FEMA relief, which we are applying for, will only provides for 75% relief, so the remaining 25% is coming out of the local community’s tax dollars and it’s going to be quite expensive,” Misciagna said.

And Rahway resident Sarah Zeilsky hopes taxpayers will not have to foot the bill when this is over with higher property taxes because additional aid was not approved.

“Oh, that’s going to impact me drastically. I don’t think we’ll be able to afford it, so I really hope we get the funding,” Zeilsky said.

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Sen. Menendez will need 60 votes from the Senate and President Donald Trump to sign the bill. He hopes a decision will be made within the next two weeks.