Murphy to meet with Trump at White House in the midst of the coronavirus crisis

Posted Apr 29, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy is scheduled to visit the White House on Thursday morning to meet with President Donald Trump as New Jersey seeks federal help to cope with the health and economic crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic governor tweeted Wednesday night he plans to discuss expanding COVID-19 testing and securing federal financial aid for states.

“We will work together to defeat this virus and ensure that New Jersey emerges from this crisis stronger than ever,” Murphy wrote.

Murphy will then travel back to Trenton to hold his daily coronavirus press briefing, according to his public schedule.

Spokespeople for the governor did not immediately return messages late Wednesday seeking further comment about the trip.

Murphy says New Jersey — one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots — needs to at least double testing as one of the conditions to gradually lift the unprecedented stay-at-home and business-closing orders he placed on the state last month to help slow the virus’ spread. The governor has repeatedly said the state needs help from the federal government to expand testing.

Meanwhile, Murphy and other governors are asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid for state and local governments to help balance budgets in the face of untold lost tax revenue because of the virus. The bipartisan National Governors Association is asking Congress to approve $500 billion in aid.

Murphy has warned of mass public-worker layoffs in New Jersey if that doesn’t happen.

On Wednesday, the credit-rating agency S&P Global Ratings revised the state’s credit outlook to negative.

“We’re desperately in need of money," Murphy said during his daily press briefing earlier in the day, while also stressing that all states, not just Democratic-leaning ones, need funds.

New Jersey already received $18 billion in federal assistance, but the U.S. Treasury Department said the money could be used for only for coronavirus-related expenses. Murphy says he also hopes to have those guidelines relaxed.

Top Republicans have pushed back on the requests for more money, arguing they are leery of helping blue states that accumulated large public-worker pension debt before the pandemic.

Trump said Wednesday aid could depend upon state leaders agreeing to concessions like stricter immigration policies.

“If we were going to do something for the states, I think they’d probably want something having to do with sanctuary cities and other different points that we can discuss a little later on," the Republican president said.

Murphy has frequently criticized Trump in the past, but the two have been complimentary of each other during the crisis as the governor strikes a more diplomatic tone while he seeks federal help.

New Jersey has reported at least 116,264 COVID-19 cases, with at least 6,770 related deaths in less than two months. Only New York has more cases and deaths among U.S. states.

Meanwhile, more than 850,000 New Jereyans have filed for unemployment since aggressive social distancing began more than five weeks ago.

Murphy on Monday outlined a six-point recovery plan to reopen the state, but he did not provide a specific timetable.

On Wednesday, the governor made the first major change to his lockdown orders, announcing state parks and forests will reopen and county parks and golf courses will be allowed to open again under restrictions starting Saturday morning.

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