RELEASE: At Grocery Store, Gottheimer Announces New Steps to Combat Rising Costs, Address Supply Chain Issues

Next Steps, New Legislation in Affordability Agenda for Jersey. Highlights bipartisan COMPETES legislation passed by the House to help bring back American manufacturing

 

Above: Gottheimer today at Stew Leonard's Farm Fresh Food grocery store in Paramus.

PARAMUS, NJ — Today, February 11, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) visited Stew Leonard's Farm Fresh Food grocery store to announce new steps in his Affordability Agenda for Jersey, to combat rising costs, tackle COVID-driven supply chain issues, and help make life more affordable for families and small businesses in North Jersey.

The new steps Gottheimer announced today as a part of his Affordability Agenda for Jersey include: 

  • Enacting bipartisan legislation to boost domestic manufacturing and American competitiveness: Last week, the House passed bipartisan legislation — the America COMPETES/Make It In America Act — to address supply chain issues, accelerate U.S. production of semiconductor chips, and reduce reliance on foreign countries like China.
  • Setting a 30-day chokepoint count-down clock: Gottheimer’s provision was included in the House-passed America COMPETES/Make It In America Act to require the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Transportation to report to Congress and the public on the major current chokepoints in our nation’s supply chain within one month. 
  • Cutting shipping costs: The Gottheimer-backed bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act was included in the House-passed America COMPETES/Make It In America Act, and will crack down on shipping companies that are gouging businesses and raising prices — to help directly cut costs that Jersey families see at the store or when they order products they need.
  • Manufacturing more semiconductor chips in America: The House-passed America COMPETES/Make It In America Act includes full investment in the bipartisan CHIPS Act, which the Problem Solvers Caucus has been fighting for — to incentivize private-sector investments in making semiconductors in America, while also creating new jobs.

“It is clear that costs have gone up, and supplies have gone down, and not just at the grocery store — so many of our families have felt it in all types of stores and at the gas station. It is hitting families hard across the country. That’s why I’m focused day and night on steps we can take to get prices down for families, and deal with the impact of COVID-19 economy. That’s what my Affordability Agenda is all about,” said U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Last week, we passed major legislation in the House — the America COMPETES Act — also known as the Make it in America Act — that will help boost domestic manufacturing, ease the COVID-driven supply chain challenges, and help get prices down to help families and small businesses here in New Jersey."

Other key provisions in the House-passed America COMPETES Act include:
• Enhancing innovation and technology, including through job training;
• Providing historic investment to increase U.S. manufacturing of other key technology components to clear the supply chain;
• Creating an office within the Commerce Department that would focus solely on the supply chain; and,
• More provisions authored by Gottheimer — found here.

Additionally, as a part of his work to lower costs for New Jersey families, Gottheimer is committed to ensuring that the restoration of the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction is included in the final reconciliation package that is negotiated with the Senate.

Below: Congressman Gottheimer with Jake Travello, VP of Stew Leonard’s Paramus & grandson of company founder Stew Leonard, Sr and Bergen County Commissioners Mary Amoroso and Germaine Ortiz.

 

Watch the press conference here.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

I want to thank Stew Leonard’s for welcoming us here today. Stew Leonard’s is a fantastic family-owned business that has been operating in the tri-state area for more than 50 years, and it’s one of the best places to shop here in Bergen County, with unique products from all across the country. But, like most grocery stores, during the pandemic, it has become significantly harder for them to get the goods they need to keep their store stocked.

That’s why I am here today to discuss new action in my Affordability Agenda to deal with challenges of the COVID economy and help get prices down for families and small businesses here in Jersey. 

Two years ago, no one could have predicted the havoc COVID would wreak on society — on every aspect of the way we live and work. Two years ago, only a few people worked remotely. 

We took the reach of the global economy and the ease of getting everything with a click of a button for granted. You could order sneakers, a stapler, or an iPhone on a Monday and, by Tuesday, it was in a large container box being shipped from China to a port like Newark. 

But, by late spring of 2020, everything we knew as normal changed. Ports were shut down. The price of shipping on those large container ships skyrocketed — affecting those low prices we became accustomed to in the global economy. It took weeks or even months to get that same stapler from China, let alone a face mask, paper towels, sanitizer, toilet paper, or a ventilator. We went from going to grocery stores like Stew Leonard’s to getting deliveries, or shipping everything. Boxes and bags outside our doors became the new normal. 

It was clearer than ever just how dependent we were on foreign countries for so much of what we needed — from toilet paper to ventilators to the pharmaceutical ingredients in our vaccinations and treatments, to cars, computers, and cell phones. 

And now, two years later, the COVID economy is still wreaking havoc on the supply chain and on prices for consumers — including for groceries, as I mentioned. And we are still far too dependent on foreign manufacturers. We are getting more boxes delivered to our homes than ever before. The global shipping supply chain — and the domestic chain — are still clogged and expensive. Demand for boxcars and trucks are still backed up and out stripping supply and, as a result, prices to ship are far higher than before the pandemic — affecting everything from meat, to the sugar and flour they use in the bakery here. And, as a result, stores and families are still waiting weeks or months to get deliveries – and they’re paying more.

It used to cost Stew Leonard’s $5,000 to get a container shipped from Europe — now, it’s doubled. And, it is no different for ground transportation in the U.S.: when they need to source berries from California, the cost has doubled to get a truck. 

It is clear that costs have gone up, and supplies have gone down, and not just at the grocery store — so many of our families have felt it in all types of stores and at the gas station. It is hitting families hard across the country. 

That’s why I’m focused day and night on steps we can take to get prices down for families, and deal with the impact of COVID-19 economy. That’s what my Affordability Agenda is all about. 

Now, for some news on our progress. I’m here today, to announce what we are doing to fix our supply chain issues, lower taxes, and manufacture more here in America — so we can cut costs and make life more affordable for folks from the grocery store to the gas station.

Last week, we passed major legislation in the House — the America COMPETES Act — also known as the Make it in America Act — that will help boost domestic manufacturing, ease the COVID-driven supply chain challenges, and help get prices down to help families and small businesses here in New Jersey.

The Make it in America Act invests in American competitiveness and will help bring costs down in both the short-and-long-term for hardworking New Jersey families, all while creating jobs. 

As I mentioned, one of the things that is currently driving up costs is our country’s reliance on overseas manufacturing. So, when the pandemic started impacting the global supply chain, all of a sudden we could not get critical goods we needed and prices started going way up – on everything, including critical medical supplies and drug ingredients. 

The Make it in America Act tackles that issue head on not only by investing in fixing our broken supply chains. It will help build more critical components in America, with the bipartisan CHIPS Act, which is something I have been advocating for months — and that was endorsed by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that I Co-Chair.

Now what is the CHIPS Act? The CHIPS Act is legislation that addresses head-on one of the central supply chains and manufacturing problems driving up costs: microchip shortages. 

Microchips are in everything from our cell phones, to cars, to computers, to the farm equipment that powers the farms in the Fifth District, and the cash registers that power Stew Leonard’s, to the ventilators we’ve needed during COVID. 

In 1990, the U.S. produced 37 percent of the world's supply of microchips. Now, we’ve slipped, and that number is down to just 12 percent — most of the supply coming from China and Taiwan. That’s why we have seen the costs of so many goods rise. A Wall Street Journal report from last year found that some gadgets, including laptops, phones, printers, and more, are up to$50 more expensive for customers because of the global chip shortage. That directly hits our pocketbooks.

Some manufacturers that rely on semiconductors are down to less than five days' worth of inventory when they normally have 40 days worth. 

I’m sure you’ve seen that many of our U.S. auto manufacturers have finished cars just stacked up in the parking lot just waiting for microchips. The Ford F-150 has more than a thousand microchips in it – they are literally computers on wheels. Without them, nothing moves. Here in New Jersey, 60% of equipment rolling off the production line is missing at least one component and will sit in the warehouse until they can get it.

But luckily, the CHIPS Act will incentivize private-sector investments in making semiconductors here. By building more of these chips, and everything else, here, it will help get supply up and prices down.

This is also vital to ensuring our nation can continue to compete with China, and it will help lower costs for North Jersey families and small businesses, all while creating new, good paying U.S. jobs.

And it will make us less dependent on a foreign-based supply of semiconductor technology, no matter if that is in a friendly country like Taiwan or South Korea, or an adversary like China.

The COMPETES Act bill also helps with the here and now — with our current supply chain issues and associated costs, that are hitting families and groceries stores like this one.

It includes key sections that I proudly authored to help bring costs down in the short term. To help figure out exactly where the actual chokepoints in our supply chain are, like things that are making it harder for Stew Leonard’s to get the exact products they want, this bill gives the Department of Commerce thirty days to report to the public on the most significant chokepoints in our nation’s supply chain. 

While we know there are trucking and shipping problems all across America, we need a comprehensive look at exactly where the major supply chain issues are, so that we can fix them in the most effective and fastest ways. 

That was a key component of my COVID-19 Supply Chain Relief Act, that puts in place a federal Supply Czar and allows states to utilize unused COVID-19 funds to address supply chain bottlenecks. 

Another piece of legislation that I helped write was also included in this bill: the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which will crack down on shipping companies that are gouging people and acting like a cartel to raise prices during this pandemic. Cutting the price of shipping will directly cut the costs that Jersey families see at the store or when they order the products they need.

As part of my Affordability Agenda, to help get goods shipped and delivered faster from overseas to our store shelves, I recently called on the President to activate the National Guard to help unload ships at our ports with essential goods like pharmaceutical ingredients. That’s a huge and expensive chokepoint. I asked the President to utilize the United States Transportation Command fleet, which includes non-combat ships in our armed forces, to help move critical supplies across the ocean. These ships are designed for these purposes – and are literally drydocked right now. By taking these steps, we can help ease supply chain disruptions at our ports and across the country – and get the cost of goods for consumers down.

Also, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that we passed and was signed into law is already making investments in our ports to help speed up the time from a ship arriving with goods to getting onto trucks or trains to get to a store or your home. But some of that, like fixing our rails and our roads, will obviously take more time. 

The bottom line is: As I’ve said, we must do everything we can to control costs for our families, so they can afford to work, live, and stay here in Jersey. 

Now, beyond the work we are doing to address manufacturing and supply chain issues to help bring costs down, I am also working to restore the SALT deduction, cut taxes for our Jersey families, so we can get more money into your pockets to help you pay your bills. Restoring SALT is a key part of my Affordability Agenda. 

For years now, since the Red States stuck it to us with the 2017 Tax Hike Bill, I’ve been focused like a laser beam on restoring the State and Local Tax Deduction, or SALT. After screaming No SALT, No Dice at the top of my lungs, I fought for — and ultimately got — SALT included in the reconciliation bill that passed the House. Now, as we work to craft a bill that also can pass the Senate, I am committed to ensuring that it has clear SALT provisions that will give an immediate tax cut to hard-working, middle class families in Jersey, and help keep better-off folks from moving out to other states like Florida and Texas at record rates, like they have been since the Moocher States stuck it to us. 

And for those who don't live here and don’t get it — restoring SALT is about affordability for middle class families. Here in New Jersey, and in the tri-state area, we happen to invest in our schools, which are the best in the country, in our law enforcement, also the best, and in our programs for hard-pressed families. Our cost of living is higher here, so our folks need to make more. They shouldn’t be punished and double taxed for it.

One of the best things we can do to help folks afford living here is to give them a tax cut. 

According to the team of accountants I’ve been working with, a married couple who is an electrician and a nurse in Jersey, would save an additional $3,700 off of their federal taxes with the bill I helped pass in the House. I can't speak to my friends in the Moocher States, but that’s real money— and it will really help families deal with pandemic-driven costs. 

Finally, to help get costs down, as part of my Affordability Agenda, we’ve also taken steps to lower the costs of prescription drugs by capping out-of-pockets prescription costs, including with insulin and some of the most expensive drugs. In that same reconciliation bill that we passed out of the House in November, We are also taking steps to make childcare more affordable for families to help them get back to work. 

For the nearly ten percent of adults across the Fifth District who have diabetes, this bill will cap the price of insulin at $35-a-month, saving North Jersey residents hundreds or thousands of dollars every year. And, the bill will ensure that families do not pay more than seven percent of their annual income on childcare each year — huge news in a District like this one, with nearly 50,000 children under the age of six. That money will go directly back into the pockets of middle-class families during these challenging times.

We also must take an all-of -the-above strategy to help get gas prices and home-heating costs down. Utilizing our vast supply of natural gas, along with the President working with domestic producers to increase production and processing, will help lower costs in the short term. And, where needed, the administration should continue to take a tough line on price gouging and anti-competitive behavior, including by foreign cartels that are preying on the American worker.

There is a clear need for aggressive action to get prices down for families and small businesses – to , to help deal with the impact of the COVID-19 economy. We need to address our supply chain, lower taxes, increase domestic manufacturing, and lower prescription drug and child care costs. We must pass the Make it in America Act. It’s all part of my aggressive Affordability Agenda for Jersey – and all of it will help put money back in your pockets. 

By working together, Democrats and Republicans, here in the greatest country in the world, there’s no reason why our best days can’t always be ahead of us. Thank you and God bless you. 

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