New Jersey Creates Office, Taskforce to Track COVID-19 Monies Online

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order July 17 to track where money for the COVID-19 crisis is being spent. 

The order establishes the Governor’s Disaster Recovery Office as well as the COVID-19 Compliance and Oversight Task Force, which Murphy believes will provide oversight and accountability in the state’s administration of federal COVID-19 resources.

“We are fighting for every public dollar of COVID-19 relief possible, and every dollar we receive and properly invest in our recovery is one we do not have to borrow,” said Murphy at a press briefing July 17. “With this step, we are putting in place the oversight we need for this moment, to give the public greater confidence in our work, and ensure that our restart and recovery moves forward.”

Taskforce Details

Daniel Kelly, current executive director of the disbanding Office of Recovery and Rebuilding, will lead the Governor’s Disaster Recovery Office (GDRO), while Acting State Comptroller Kevin Walsh will lead the COVID-19 Compliance and Oversight Task Force.

The COVID-19 Compliance Taskforce is detailed to review all COVID-related procurements above a certain dollar threshold, ensuring internal controls and providing compliance training to all agencies receiving COVID-19 funds. Additionally, the taskforce will 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. 

Murphy said quarterly reports will be submitted to the Disaster Recovery Office, the Attorney General, the Comptroller, and both the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker, as well as being posted online.

“With the need so great and resources so limited, it is extremely important that COVID-19 relief funds are used as intended and in full compliance with state and federal law,” said Walsh in a press statement. I look forward to leading the Governor’s Task Force in our mission to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of any kind from disrupting New Jersey’s recovery from this crisis.”

GDRO Responsibilities

The GDRO is assuming the responsibilities of the Governor’s Office of Recovery & Rebuilding, which was established after Superstorm Sandy.  The GDRO is responsible for:

  • Coordinating the work of “COVID-19 Accountability Officers” to ensure cross-agency collaboration, compliance, and transparency;
  • Developing a transparency website by October to track 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 and government agencies to respond to or recover from the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Coordinating and consulting with all stakeholders regarding the disbursement of COVID-19 Recovery Funds and the administration of COVID-19 Recovery Programs; and
  • Publishing an annual report summarizing the state’s use of federal funds in response to COVID-19.

“It’s imperative that we have a robust compliance and Statewide coordination process in place to ensure that our federal COVID-19 resources are used properly,” said Kelly. “I share (Gov. Murphy’s) commitment to ensuring we continue to provide accountability and transparency for the residents of New Jersey.”

Murphy said the order directs the State Comptroller to review all COVID-related procurements above $150,000, ensure internal controls, and provide compliance training to all agencies receiving COVID-19 funds.

Daily Data

As of July 17, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 176,783 with 144 new cases and 11 new deaths, bringing that total to 13,732. The state probable death count remained at 1,947, bringing the overall total to 15,679.

Murphy tweeted that the total case count is lower than July 16’s case count due to an issue related to electronic receipt of lab results and a high volume of duplicate case merges.

“This situation is being looked into closely and will tried to be resolved as quickly as possible,” he said.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,838, followed by Bergen at 1,765, Hudson with 1,313, Passaic at 1,080, Morris at 669, Sussex at 158 and Warren with 154.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 268, Essex has 255, Hudson has 185, Passaic 158, Morris 157, Sussex has 37 and Warren has 17.

State Testing 

The rate of transmission remains at 1.11. Officials reported 766 patients are hospitalized, with the north tier having 325 patients hospitalized, the central 238 and the south 203.

Of those hospitalized, 149 are in intensive care units and 65 on ventilators, while 69 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 19,980, followed by Hudson at 19,248, Essex at 19,105, Passaic at 17,162, Middlesex at 17,158, Union at 16,508, Ocean at 9,947, Monmouth at 9,659, Camden at 7,829, Mercer at 7,825, Morris at 6,958, Burlington at 5,442, Somerset at 5,065, Atlantic at 3,116, Cumberland at 3,076, Gloucester at 2,824, Warren at 1,276, Sussex at 1,246, Hunterdon at 1,100, Salem at 831 and Cape May at 754.

Another 674 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 20% Hispanic, 18% Black, 6% Asian and 2% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state. 

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 56% had cardiovascular disease, 45% diabetes, 31% other chronic diseases, 18% neurological conditions, 17% lung diseases, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Health Commission Judith Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for confirmed deaths shows 47% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 33% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted currently 414 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 30,657 of the cases, broken down between 20,157 residents and 10,500 staff. 

Cumulatively, 571 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,511 residents and 12,657 staff, for a total of 37,168 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 6,805 on July 17. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,643 residents deaths and 120 staff deaths. 

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