TRENTON, N.J. – As the remaining $1 billion in federal Covid relief funds gets earmarked, that decision-making process must be fair and transparent says Assemblyman Christian Barranco.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has been criticized by lawmakers and advocacy groups for its lack of forthrightness in how and why it spent its $6 billion share of the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan, signed into law in March 2021.
“It’s the same old story. Democrats promise transparency and then cut back-room deals without Republican or public input,” Barranco (R-Morris) said. “Public money, whether federal, state, or local, should be openly accounted for, period.”
The governor recently hosted two 90-minute virtual sessions with invitation-only guest list of advocates, many calling for additional assistance for small businesses, people facing eviction and homelessness, and frontline healthcare workers. The general public has been invited to submit ideas via email.
Relief funds come with strings attached. The money must be used to help with coronavirus pandemic recovery, with the federal government leaving the states to define those needs. However, money cannot be used to fund public-worker pension payments or lower property taxes. Murphy and the Democrat-controlled legislature chose to allocate hundreds of millions on pork, jammed into the FY2022 and FY2023 budgets last minute.
The funds must be earmarked by the end of 2024.
“Even the liberal press has called out the governor on his lack of transparency over Covid relief fund spending,” Barranco added. “The Republican call to governance has not changed, and I call on Gov. Murphy to follow it: to be worthy of trust, you must be accountable, which means you must be transparent.”