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Has the government changed how it conducts business as a result of COVID-19?
At the start of the health crisis, the Governor signed legislation allowing for State business and legislative sessions to be conducted at locations other than Trenton, and for legislative business to be conducted by electronic means.
On September 29, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed the revised FY2021 budget into law. The Governor's FY 2021 Revised Budget Proposal may be found online, including details on spending plans for $2.39 billion in Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) funding.
As a result of COVID-19, the fiscal year was extended from the traditional June 30th ending to September 30, 2020. As a result, the revised budget addresses spending for only the nine-month period from October 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
In addition, the Governor signed a law authorizing the State to borrow up to $9.9 billion to address the unprecedented fiscal crisis that has arisen as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the law, the State has the authority to issue bonds of up to $9.9 billion over the remainder of the extended Fiscal Year 2020 and the nine-month Fiscal Year 2021.
Oversight of COVID-19 Recovery Programs
The Governor has announced the creation of a Disaster Recovery Office, which will serve as the center point of contact and coordination for COVID-19 recovery programs funded through the CARES Act and other sources of federal funds.
The Office will ensure all funds are expended in compliance with federal rules and regulations, and that strategies and policies are aligned across all state Departments. A website to track the Office's progress as well as an annual report will be required.
On October 16, 2020 New Jersey launched its COVID-19 Transparency website, which tracks the State's eligible and planned uses of any funds disbursed by the federal or State government to help New Jersey residents, businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and other entities respond to or recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. It will provide a list of the contracts involving the allocation and expenditure of recovery funds, in addition to providing information on the various disaster recovery resources available to residents, businesses and government entities.
The Governor has also announced the creation of a COVID-19 Compliance Task Force to review all COVID-related procurements above a certain dollar threshold, ensure internal controls, and provide compliance training to all agencies receiving COVID-19 funds.
The Task Force will also establish an Integrity Oversight Monitoring program with a pool of outside vendors to ensure agencies guard against fraud, waste, and abuse of any COVID-19 funds. Integrity monitors will submit quarterly reports to the Disaster Recovery Office, the Attorney General, the Comptroller, and both the Senate President and Assembly Speaker, as well as post them online.
On October 9, 2020 the Governor announced $60 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) for the Local Government Emergency Fund to aid counties and municipalities that were excluded from the federal government's direct CRF allocation plan. These relief funds will help to address necessary and unexpected expenditures necessitated by the pandemic.
The New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) is also providing up to $10 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to support the state's County Boards of Social Services with COVID-related expenses such as technology to adapt to remote work, expanding to meet growing demand, and supplies and materials to meet COVID-19 health and safety standards.
On May 15, 2020, Governor Murphy signed a bill into law concerning certain local government deadlines, certifications, meetings, acceptance of payments, and property taxes. For more information, refer to the legislation A-3969/S-2392.
On August 31, 2020, Governor Murphy signed legislation authorizing municipalities and counties to borrow funds to cover revenue shortfalls and expenditures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by issuing bonds and notes. For more information, refer to the legislation (A3791).
Sources: https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200401a.shtml, https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200319f.shtml; Executive Order No. 159; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200716b.shtml; Governor's Remarks 7/17/20; Executive Order No. 178; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20201009b.shtml; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20201016c.shtml