Why is Phil Murphy hoarding federal COVID-19 aid to himself, Republicans question

On the three-month anniversary of the State receiving $6.2 billion in COVID relief funding from the federal government, the four Republican members of the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee today called on the Murphy Administration to stop the foot-dragging and put the money to work helping residents, as it was intended.

In a letter to the Governor and the Senate Democrat co-chairs of the Joint Budget Oversight Committee (JBOC), Senate Republican Budget Officer Steven Oroho (R-24), Senator Sam Thompson (R-12), Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), and Senator Michael Testa (R-1) criticized the Administration for only spending $316,000 or .005% of the money since it was received in May.

The Senators urged the Governor “to embrace a sense of urgency and put to use more than $1 billion of funds already authorized to be spent in the Appropriations Act.”

The letter stated, “Ending bureaucratic hurdles to getting money to people who need help should be a no-brainer. It’s an embarrassment that only $316,000 out of more than $6.2 billion has been put to use when the State received funds three months ago.”

In addition, the Senators called for the Joint Budget Committee to support a recent request by Senator Oroho and Assemblyman Wirths, in their capacity as members of the JBOC, to “meet as soon as possible to proactively provide guidance to the Governor on how best to put money to use, including authorizing funds to stabilize the unemployment insurance fund and avoid a recently announced $252 million tax increase on all employers.”

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Governor, Senator Sarlo, and Assemblywoman Pintor-Marin:

Today is the three-month anniversary of the State having received more than $6.2 billion from the federal government to help alleviate suffering due to COVID 19 and to stimulate our economy which has the sixth worst unemployment rate in the country at 7.3%.  However, we are informed by the Office of Legislative Services that all but $316,000 of these funds remain sitting idle in two State accounts. Urgent action is needed now to get more than $6.2 billion out the door to help people that otherwise has sat idle, so we are writing with urgent requests as follows:

  • The Governor should direct the departments to embrace a sense of urgency and put to use more than $1 billion of funds already authorized to be spent in the Appropriations Act; and
  • The Joint Budget Committee should support a recent request by Senator Oroho and Assemblyman Wirths, in their capacity as members of the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, and meet as soon as possible to proactively provide guidance to the Governor on how best to put money to use, including authorizing funds to stabilize the unemployment insurance fund and avoid a recently announced $252 million tax increase on all employers.

As you are aware, in April of this year, we proposed a broad outline of how to put federal funds to use found here: https://www.senatenj.com/index.php/oroho/republican-budget-members-outline-responsible-plan-for-6-5-billion-of-arp-federal-relief-funds/52942.  We later proposed a similar use of funds though a formal budget resolution submitted to legislative leaders on June 7, found here: https://www.senatenj.com/index.php/oroho/senate-republicans-propose-budget-fixes-reforms-to-protect-nj-taxpayers/53764.

We continue to believe that most of our proposed uses remain appropriate, though modifications would be needed to reflect uses already authorized in the Appropriations Act, and to address ideas that others may have suggested since the proposal was made.

Ending bureaucratic hurdles to getting money to people who need help should be a no-brainer. It’s an embarrassment that only $316,000 out of more than $6.2 billion has been put to use when the State received funds three months ago.  JBOC providing pro-active guidance on desired uses of the funds should be a welcome approach so the Governor knows legislative priorities – including preventing increased taxes on suffering employers that will aggravate our sixth worst in the nation unemployment rate — that must be addressed in his plan for JBOC consideration.

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