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Saturday, May 18, 2024

N.J. Spent $521K of COVID Funds on SUVs for Top Officials

'As part of their many responsibilities, these officials provide leadership and lend support to the state’s COVID-19 recovery efforts... '

(Adam Andrzejewsk, RealClear Wire) New Jersey found a creative way to use leftover COVID-19 relief money, spending over half a million dollars on a fleet of eight new SUVs to ferry the state’s top executives, according to Politico.

The funds were left over from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, when the federal government sent $200 million to the State of New Jersey to help combat COVID-19. Initially, the idea was to help states and municipalities cover expenses for things like masks, hand sanitizer and enhanced cleanings.

A Treasury Department memo says the state could use the funds for “costs to improve the design and execution of programs responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and to administer or improve the efficacy of programs addressing the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts,” Politico reported.

The New Jersey State Police bought the vehicles for its Executive Protection Unit, which transports the governor, lieutenant governor and other top administration officials.

N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy’s office provided a memo to the state legislature’s Joint Budget Oversight Committee on how his office intended to use its portion of the funds. This included the eight SUVs, which were justified in the memo by stating, “As part of their many responsibilities, these officials provide leadership and lend support to the state’s COVID-19 recovery efforts at vaccination sites, hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities and other affected sites.”

Also included in the governor’s memo about COVID spending was $4 million to recruit new state police officers, $10 million for license plate readers and $8.5 million for school social and emotional learning programs.

Reasonable people can disagree over the amount of stimulus money the government gave out over multiple rounds from 2020 to 2021. But leftover money no longer needed to fight COVID should be returned to the federal government, not wasted on local pet projects.

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