State Republicans accuse Gov. Murphy of hoarding billions of federal COVID-19 funds

State Republican lawmakers are accusing Gov. Phil Murphy of holding back billions of dollars in funds the federal government gave to New Jersey to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Steel Wheel Tavern owner Glenn Carlough says that his Ridgewood restaurant has done everything possible to stay in business the past six months. He has installed tents and heaters outside, put tables on the street and shared sidewalk space with neighbors. He has also gotten a Paycheck Protection Plan loan and grant money. But Carlough says that all that may still not be enough to stay open.
“Everyone needs to ask themselves, ‘Do we want to wake up one morning in March or April of next year living in a world where there are no independent restaurants?’” Carlough says.
The federal government gave New Jersey almost $2.5 billion in April to help these businesses. But a new state auditor report shows that as of two weeks ago, only 10% of those funds have been spent.
State Senate Minority Whip Sen. Tom Kean says that this is unacceptable. He says that the rules are clear when it comes to giving out the money.
“The most important thing is to get these dollars to their intended recipients, the people impacted, small businesses, restaurant owners, mom and pop shops,” Kean says.
Murphy has set aside $200 million for the economy. He is expected to announce another $100 million on Tuesday. It is important for businesses because most of the relief so far has come from federal loans – loans that are expected to be forgiven.
“We would accept the grant or loan because it beats the alternative. But at some point, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is it sustainable to take on that kind of debt?’” Carlough asks.
Murphy’s office says that it is continuing to allocate funds based on the plans publicly released months ago.
It says that the 10% refers to funds spent as of late September, and “many programs are still in the process of distributing funds to applicants, or will reimburse grantees later for funds they’re spending now (like our K-12 program). Programs must be reviewed to ensure compliance with federal restrictions, and US Treasury continues to update its guidance.”