Per an email by New Jersey’s neutral Office of Legislative Services, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration improperly transferred $10,000,000 in federal coronavirus assistance money in April.
According to the email obtained by NJ Advance Media, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, managed by Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, sent $10 million apiece from the state’s coronavirus restoration money to the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund.
The OLS wrote the email on Wednesday to state lawmakers to alert them that one of the transactions “appears to violate the rules established” in the current fiscal year’s state budget.
The American Rescue Plan, approved by President Joe Biden in March 2021, provided $6.24 billion to the Garden State. The majority of the money has yet to be spent, and the Murphy team has failed to present a specific strategy for the remaining $3 billion.
Last year, Murphy and lawmakers decided that the use of that money would require approval from the Legislature’s bipartisan Joint Budget Oversight Committee. It was contained in the language of the present state budget law, which runs out on June 30.
The budget act put aside $200 million in federal funding, which the governor can use without congressional approval to fund pandemic-related projects. However, the measure specifies that those funds are “not to exceed $10 million for each such eligible program…”
On April 18, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs executed a $10 million move that “was effected in accordance with the FY 2022 budget language,” according to budget experts, as reported.
“But the legal authority for the second $10 million transfer effected on April 29 is unclear,” OLS said to Lawmakers in an email.
In an interview with NJ Advance Media on Thursday, Murphy’s administration said it sees the wording differently. The appropriations act, according to administration officials, permits numerous $10 million payments to the same program.
“Each allocation from the Governor’s $200 million set aside is made in allocations of $10 million or less, in accordance with the Administration’s interpretation of budget language,” Murphy spokeswoman Alyana Alfaro-Post said to NJ Advance Media. “The Excluded New Jerseyans Fund has been expanded through a series of programmatic phases, each of which has been announced publicly.”
Per an email given to lawmakers on Wednesday, OLS officials contacted the Murphy administration’s Office of Management and Budget for an answer, on May 9 and then again on two other periods since then.
According to the Murphy administration, Lynn Azarchi, acting director of the management and budget office, submitted a brief answer to OLS on May 24. However, that statement made no mention of the authority that was utilized to legitimize the second $10 million payment.
The $10,000,000 will be used to supplement and strengthen the state’s Excluded New Jerseyans Fund, which was established last year with an original $40 million to help illegal immigrants and other employees who were left out of economic relief throughout the outbreak.
Murphy established the foundation in May 2021, following an almost month-long strike by illegal immigrants who have been yearning for financial assistance after being denied most sources of direct economic assistance, including unemployment compensation and stimulus payments. However, registration did not start until the fall, and there was little attention.
Immigrant advocacy groups and lawmakers, including state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, have encouraged the administration to allocate a bigger portion of the epidemic cash to assist more of the 460,000 illegal immigrants and their families who do not qualify for other forms of help.
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