N.J. launches ‘COVID-19 transparency’ website

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the launch of the state’s COVID-19 Oversight website — a site he said will provide transparency and public confidence in the expenditure of federal recovery funds as the state continues to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

The site can be accessed here.

The launch of the website comes three months after the governor signed an executive order, which established the Governor’s Disaster Recovery Office and COVID-19 Compliance and Oversight Task Force. The order specified that the site be up and running by mid-October.

The launch also comes following a growing (but still somewhat small) chorus of people complaining that the state has spent very little of the $2.4 billion in aid it received from the CARES Act in the spring.

The GDRO, with the assistance of the New Jersey Office of Information Technology and the Office of the State Comptroller, developed the transparency website within 90 days of the date of the executive order, which was signed July 17.

Administration officials said the website tracks the state’s eligible and planned uses of any funds disbursed by the federal or state government to help New Jersey residents, businesses, nonprofit 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.

Daniel Kelly, the executive director of the GDRO, said the site will centralize information for the public on federal funding data and federally funded contracts to ensure New Jerseyans that the state is properly stewarding coronavirus recovery funds.

Acting state Comptroller Kevin Walsh agreed.

“The new COVID-19 Oversight website is designed to shine a bright light on how federal money is being spent on New Jersey’s recovery efforts, and to serve as a resource for New Jersey residents,” he said. “Publicly posting contracts that pertain to New Jersey’s recovery from COVID-19 means that our recovery from this crisis is proceeding with maximum transparency and accountability to taxpayers.”

Chris Rein, the chief technology officer for the state, said he was particularly proud of the launch of the site on account of the speed in which it was developed and the cost.

“As a person within information technology, it’s always a moment of pride when a project with a specific delivery deadline and specific budget is delivered on time and on budget,” he said. “Leveraging existing assets and technologies, this application was substantially less expensive than prior data transparency projects.”

Murphy said the site is about good government.

“New Jerseyans deserve to know how the state is addressing the COVID-19 crisis and how their taxpayer dollars are being spent,” he said. “This website represents a crucial step in our commitment to transparency during the ongoing pandemic.”