Above: Gottheimer speaks about the Affordability Agenda in the Snow Joe and Sun Joe Warehouse in Mahwah.
MAHWAH, NJ — Today, December 6, 2021, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) launched a new Affordability Agenda for Jersey, to cut costs, tackle supply chain issues, lower prescription drug costs, restore the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction, and make life more affordable for families and small businesses in North Jersey. As a part of the new Affordability Agenda, Gottheimer announced new legislation, the COVID-19 Supply Chain Relief Act, and a new effort for the President to activate the National Guard and the United States Transportation Command fleet to help move critical supplies.
The new Affordability Agenda for Jersey announced today includes the following steps:
- Tackling the Supply Chain Crisis:
- Creating a Strategic Shipping Reserve by Activating the National Guard & Non-Combat Armed Forces Fleet to Move Critical Supplies: Gottheimer will be requesting that the President activate the National Guard to help offload and truck critical supplies at our ports, and utilize the United States Transportation Command fleet to help move critical supplies across the ocean.
- The COVID-19 Supply Chain Relief Act: Gottheimer will be introducing new legislation that will (1) institute a federal Supply Chain Czar and establish individual regional supply chain leaders to help coordinate interstate response to supply chain disruptions, shortages, and increased prices; (2) allow states to deploy unused COVID-19 relief funds to help address supply chain bottlenecks in their states; and (3) begin a thirty-day countdown clock on 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.
- Cutting Taxes for Jersey Families by Reinstating the SALT Deduction: Gottheimer recently helped pass legislation out of the House that reinstates the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction to help cut taxes for North Jersey families.
- Lowering the Prescription Drug Costs & Making Childcare More Affordable: By capping seniors’ out-of-pocket prescription drug costs, capping the price of insulin at $35-a-month, and ensuring families do not pay more than seven percent of their annual income on childcare each year — all included in the reconciliation package that Gottheimer recently helped pass out of the House.
- Lowering Gas and Energy Prices: With an all-of-the-above approach to energy, including utilizing our vast supply of natural gas, as well as the President and the Administration continuing work with domestic producers to increase production and processing.
“My new Affordability Agenda for Jersey is action we can take right now to help our families and small businesses with the COVID-driven impact on our economy — to get more money back into Jersey families’ pockets,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “My Affordability Agenda includes aggressively addressing our COVID-driven supply chain crisis, including with new supply chain legislation I’ll be introducing, combatting our dependence on foreign manufacturing, working to get fuel and energy prices down, cutting day-to-day costs like prescription drug and childcare costs, and lowering taxes for hard-working families, including reinstating SALT. The bottom line is: as I’ve said, we must do everything we can to get more money into the pockets of our families, so they can afford to work, live, and stay here in Jersey.”
Gottheimer made today’s announcement at the Mahwah warehouse and distribution center for Snow Joe, one of North Jersey’s many locally-owned businesses, alongside Snow Joe Chief Operating Officer Paul Riley, Bergen County Commissioner Mary Amoroso, Executive Vice President of Communications and Government Affairs for the Commerce and industry Association of NJ (CIANJ) Tracy Schoenberg, Executive Director of the Mahwah Regional Chamber of Commerce Maureen Huggins, and distribution center workers.
“We welcome Congressman Gottheimer here today to discuss his efforts to alleviate the supply chain pressures impacting so many businesses across the state of New Jersey and the country. Snow Joe has not been immune to these challenges and our teams have been working diligently on a daily basis to limit the impact. Shipping delays, sky-high container costs, and rising costs have all resulted in us being forced to pass along price increases to our customers,” said Snow Joe Chief Operating Officer Paul Riley today. “The situation needs to improve and this must happen quickly.”
Watch the press conference here.
Below: Gottheimer visits the Snow Joe and Sun Joe Warehouse in Mahwah
Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to thank Snow Joe and Paul Riley for welcoming us here today to talk about my Affordability Agenda for Jersey and legislation I’m introducing to help ease COVID-driven supply chain issues and costs for families, and to what I’m doing to lower prescription drug prices and restore SALT to help cut their taxes.
I’m honored that Snow Joe is headquartered right here in Mahwah, New Jersey, with more than 200 employees right here in Bergen County — and more than 550 across the country. Snow Joe is a Cinderella story of an entrepreneur — Joe Cohen — who started his business at fourteen-years-old and now sells battery-powered snow blowers, power washers, and lawn mowers to families all over the world.
Today, we are in one of Joe’s warehouses, where many of his goods move through before they are shipped out to customers.
The COVID-19-driven supply chain crisis that has impacted countless businesses like Joe’s, has hurt hard-working North Jersey families, and has stalled critical supplies — like semiconductor chips, ventilators, diapers, prescription drug ingredients, and medical devices from reaching those who need them.
You don’t have to be a Nobel-prize-winning economist to figure out how we got here. When the pandemic struck, and it hit here early and particularly hard, there were some immediate, seismic changes to how we live, shop, learn, and work.
Suddenly, we went from shopping in stores to ordering at home for everything from groceries to clothing to pens and paper. This year, the vast majority of American families will receive an Amazon package at home — that is an exponential increase from before the pandemic.
From groceries to toothpaste, at home ordering went through the roof when folks were stuck inside – and our dependence on foreign manufacturing, beginning with ventilators and masks, and moving to microchips and pharmaceuticals, became even more pronounced.
It also highlighted our particular dependence on our number one competitor: China. Ports in Asia, Europe, and around the world shut down for months on end, and, once they re-opened, they couldn’t handle the backlog from the closures. Many of them, including in China, are still facing the ongoing threat of shut-downs as COVID outbreaks continue. On top of that, because of a massive surge in demand, the global shipping companies, domestic trucking, and rail lines just haven’t had enough room for all of the goods we rely on here from overseas.
The cost of shipping everything to the United States and around the world has gone through the roof.
The result is that critical goods are backed up and prices at the grocery store are noticeably higher. And it’s not just TVs and cars. Hospitals can’t get the tubes they need to collect blood for critical diagnostic tests. BD, one of the largest producers of medical supplies in the country — right here in North Jersey, told me that orders are backed up more than four times from normal — and that’s risking major delays at our hospitals. Oxygen tanks are in short supply because they are still in high demand for COVID patients. Hospitals in multiple states are asking people to donate their lightly-used wheelchairs and crutches because of shortages of both.
We’ve all filled our cars up lately, and we’ve seen what’s happened to the price at the pump, and home heating oil costs are already surging, up more than 57 percent over last year.
Add that to what I think are far too high state and local property taxes on families here in northern New Jersey, plus what our small businesses are facing, and it’s clear why we need to take immediate action to help make life more affordable
That’s why I’m here today — to talk about my Affordability Agenda for Jersey, action we can take right now to help our families and small businesses with the COVID-driven impact on our economy — to get more money back into Jersey families’ pockets.
My Affordability Agenda includes aggressively addressing our COVID-driven supply chain crisis, including with new supply chain legislation I’ll be introducing, combatting our dependence on foreign manufacturing, working to get fuel and energy prices down, cutting day-to-day costs like prescription drug and childcare costs; and lowering taxes for hard-working families, including reinstating SALT.
The bottom line is: As I’ve said, we must do everything we can to get more money into the pockets of our families, so they can afford to work, live, and stay here in Jersey.
As part of my Affordability Agenda, I plan to release a series of concrete steps we can take here and across the nation to cut costs and make life more affordable for families and small businesses in Jersey. Today, I’m outlining the first set of steps we can take to help ease costs for all of you.
The first pillar of my Affordability Agenda for Jersey takes on one of the key challenges behind the impact of COVID-driven prices — and that’s the pandemic supply chain crisis.
As I said earlier, from trucks to shipping, we know that the pandemic took a hammer to the global and domestic supply chain — not to mention the record-breaking number of packages folks are getting at home.
If you read the papers, you know that many of our ports are incredibly backed up right now. While things have improved, there are still about forty container ships still waiting to get unloaded at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Plus, container prices coming from China are up ten fold.
As I said earlier, we can’t even get critical goods like pharmaceutical ingredients, chips, and blood collecting vials onto ships out of Asia — put aside what they are costing companies, and then the consumer, to send them. And, those items we can get onto one of the few foreign ship lines, are often stuck because we don’t have enough longshoreman and longshorewomen at the ports to unload them.
There are also too few places to store the goods once they’re off, and too few trucks, truck drivers, and rail cars to move those goods to their final destination.
These issues date back to the previous administration, but they continue to cause us problems. It’s a COVID-driven mess and it’s driving the cost of everything up. It doesn’t help that with the Omicron variant now spreading, we are seeing signs of case spikes in many places around the world. That will only put additional strain on our already overtaxed supply chains.
This has impacted tons of sellers like Joe. It’s clear how painful these supply chain problems have been to his business.
And to make it worse, because of these disruptions, it is not just Christmas gifts that could fail to make it to their destinations in time, but critical products that many Americans need. That includes critical active pharmaceutical ingredients. As a result, sustained supply chain disruptions continue to threaten the life-saving drugs and other pharmaceuticals that many doctors, hospitals, and patients need. Moreover, also affecting them, manufacturers across the country are experiencing longer wait times for other essential healthcare supplies, including ingredients for COVID-19 tests, blood pressure medication, and over-the-counter drugs like cough medicine and pain relievers.
Not to mention the news of the new Omicron variant is not helping. As countries take new precautions that cause people to stay home, we may see some of these issues continue.
So, today, I am announcing two critical steps to help ease COVID-related demand on our domestic supply chain:
First, in the coming weeks, I’ll be introducing new legislation — the COVID-19 Supply Chain Relief Act — to help tackle this ongoing crisis.
It will put a federal Supply Chain Czar in place, to help coordinate with us here in New Jersey and New York, including our ports, trucks, and rails. It will also establish individual regional supply chain leaders — including here in the Northeast — to help coordinate interstate response to supply chain disruptions, shortages, and increased prices. It will also allow states to deploy unused COVID relief funds to help address supply chain bottlenecks in their states.
The legislation will also put a thirty-day countdown clock on the Departments of Commerce and Transportation to report to Congress and the public on the most major current chokepoints in our nation’s supply chain. We need a comprehensive analysis of where the major supply chain issues are, so that we can fix them in the most effective and efficient ways.
Second, I’m sending a letter to President Biden this week requesting that he activate the National Guard to help offload and truck critical supplies at our ports, and that he ask White House Port Envoy John Porcari 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. The National Guard is here for national emergencies like this, and just as they were activated to distribute vaccines, we should activate the Guard to help move critical goods, so that they are not at the mercy of jammed supply chains.
We should utilize the National Guard and these non-combat ships only for the most critical items, like essential pharmaceuticals and hospital supplies, that our country depends upon. These ships are designated for these purposes — they can carry up to 150 containers — many of them are sitting idle, or are moving goods back from Europe and Asia and have capacity. These steps will help ease supply chain disruptions at our ports and across the country.
Now, there are other steps we must also take, and these are important lessons from COVID, including majorly increasing our domestic manufacturing, and lowering our dependence on China, especially for critical goods like masks, pharmaceuticals, ventilators, and the like. I helped introduce legislation called the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which cracks down on abusive practices by ocean carriers and it updates the Federal Maritime Commission’s authority to crack down on global ocean shipping abuses.
I’m also introducing bipartisan legislation, the Medical and Health Stockpile Accountability Act, to help encourage domestic manufacturing and properly stockpile what we need in case of another crisis. Plus, I am working hard to ensure that we fully fund the CHIPS Act, to help deal with the shortage of microchips, and our dependence on China chips, which power everything from cars, to computers, to ventilators, to the farm equipment in my District, by encouraging major investments in semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing here in America.
I’m also urging the Department of Transportation to bring big data into shipping to better inform to which ports we send our ships, to help prevent back ups.
Now, along with the President taking critical action like pushing ports and transporters to shift to 24/7 operations, the recently-enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill makes unprecedented investments in modernizing our supply chain, including helping get more qualified truck drivers on the road and sending immediate resources to some of our ports to help with off-loading.
This historic legislation will also make major investments to upgrade our nation’s airports and ports to improve our supply chains and strengthen our global competitiveness.
The second pillar of my Affordability Agenda is the topic I hear about the most: cutting taxes for our Jersey families, so we can get more money into your pockets to help you pay your bills. 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.
Last month, 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. I fought to make sure that the whole bill is a commonsense bill that’s good for New Jersey — one that’s smartly targeted, paid for, and makes life more affordable for Jersey families. Once it’s law, it 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 — and, yes, I’m talking to you, Bernie Sanders and Chuck Grassley — restoring SALT is about affordability for middle class families. Put it this way: the median property tax bill in Vermont is $4,300; in Mississippi it’s $550; in Bergen County, it’s more than $15,000. 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.
Let me give you an example: a journeyman electrician can make more than $150,000 a year here in Jersey, plus benefits. If he is married to a nurse, they can make more than $235,000 a year. The same for a teacher, cop, or firefighter. It’s less than half that in Oklahoma. So, when the Red States gutted SALT, and capped it at $10,000, taxes went up significantly for our teachers, law enforcement, and nurses. Everything is relative.
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, that married couple of an electrician and a nurse in New Jersey, could save an additional $3,700 off of their federal taxes. I can’t speak to my friends in the Moocher States, but that’s real money from where I’m from — and it will really help families deal with pandemic-driven costs.
I’ll be talking more in the coming weeks about other steps we can take to further cut taxes in Jersey, but restoring SALT is a basic one — and, if you’re against it, then you’re against lower taxes for Jersey. And, I have very little patience for that. By the way, I’ve also been working for years with our mayors, councils, counties, first responders, and community nonprofit organizations to help claw more of our federal tax dollars back from Washington to New Jersey. We are up more than 100 percent in what we’ve clawed back over my predecessor. I’ll have this year’s Return on Investment Report in the coming days, but by getting more federal grant dollars back here — to help pay for everything from fire trucks to computers — we have saved a fortune for our property tax payers. This is all about improving affordability for Jersey families.
Another step we’ve taken to help families with costs — and the third pillar of my Affordability Agenda for Jersey — is also part of the reconciliation bill, will help families lower the costs of prescription drugs by capping out-of-pockets prescription costs and capping the cost of drugs like insulin. We are also taking steps to make childcare more affordable for families to help them get back to work.
Specifically, the reconciliation bill will cap seniors’ out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 per year. 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 goes directly back into the pockets of middle-class families during these challenging times, to help them cover other costs.
Overall, the average New Jersey family making $133,000 will receive $8,500 in savings a year thanks to this legislation — and that doesn’t count the savings from restoring SALT.
The final pillar of my Affordability Agenda for Jersey is about lowering gas and energy prices, so that people can afford to heat their homes this winter and put gas in their cars. As we all know, energy is a global marketplace, and, during COVID, when people were staying home, the energy companies pulled way back on production and processing. That wasn’t just here in America, but in countries around the world.
As we’ve opened back up and the COVID crisis wanes, demand has spiked markedly. It takes time to get things moving again, and it hasn’t helped that OPEC — representing the major energy-producing countries — has decided to use this opportunity to squeeze our families for a few extra dollars. Now, the President, working with nations around the world, has tapped the Strategic Oil Reserve, to help increase supply to meet the demand. He has also pressured OPEC to increase production. But, there will be a lag, and we can’t have families choosing between food on the table and heating their home.
They need gas to get to work, without sacrificing the pill they need to take in the morning. So, as we transition to alternative energy, including more wind and solar power and electric vehicles, all of which I support, we can’t stop production of what we need during this transition. We need an all-of-the-above approach to energy, including utilizing our vast supply of natural gas. In the immediate term, the President and the whole of the Administration must continue to work with domestic producers to increase production and processing.
And, where needed, the Administration should continue to take a tough line in instances of price gouging and other anti-competitive behavior. We also need big goals to fight climate change and protect our air and water, which is why I support the reconciliation package investments that the House recently passed to make clean energy more affordable.
With the actions I’m proposing today, including addressing the pandemic supply chain crisis, cutting taxes by restoring SALT, lowering prescription drug and childcare prices, and working to get energy prices down, I’m confident that we can cut costs and make life more affordable for New Jersey families and small businesses — and get more money back into Jersey families’ pockets. That’s what my Affordability Agenda for Jersey is all about — and I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks about other steps we can take.
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.