Coronavirus

Murphy Meets With Trump to Discuss COVID-19 Testing, State Finances

Murphy has called repeatedly on the federal government to help New Jersey with the huge cost burdens of fighting coronavirus

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy met with the president on Thursday to discuss the coronavirus crisis.

The governor said the day before the meeting that he was going to Washington D.C. to discuss COVID-19 testing with President Donald Trump, as well as talk about financial assistance for states.

Afterward, he told MSNBC Thursday that it was a productive meeting, and that the state was working cooperatively with the federal government to quickly ramp up testing capacity.

During some of the public part of the meeting, Murphy and Trump took turns praising one another for the work each one has done. But when Murphy brought up the need for as much as $30 billion to fill the state's staggering budget gap, which he said would allow the state to "keep firefighters, teachers, police, EMS on the payroll, servicing our communities," Trump mostly sidestepped the question, as Republicans have been reluctant to support it, suggesting much of the cash would support bigger blue state budgets.

"That's a tough question. You're talking to the states, what you call a bailout, a lot of the money," Trump said.

The Democrat has previously said that much of the $1.8 billion in federal COVID-19 relief earmarked for the state is likely "unusable" because of the Treasury Department's guidance, which said the funding could be used only for coronavirus-related expenses.

Murphy said the state needs greater flexibility and also called for more direct cash payments from the federal government.

What was a clear result from the meeting: The federal government is providing New Jersey with more than a half a million additional COVID-19 test kits.

The Garden State has lost 6,770 people to the coronavirus. At his daily briefing on Wednesday, Murphy noted that more residents had died from COVID-19 than were lost during World War I, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, both Gulf wars, the Afghanistan war, the Sept. 11 attacks and Superstorm Sandy -- combined.

"To think we've added a number that is more than all of those combined takes your breath away," he said.

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