Which NJ projects and priorities will receive $6.2B in American Rescue Plan funds?

Bloustein Local Government | News

When New Jersey received more than $6.2 billion in pandemic relief funding from the federal government three years ago, major projects like eviction and homelessness prevention programs and small-business grants topped the list of programs to receive benefits.

But not everything that is expected to receive money is so clearly connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All of that money has been allocated, or earmarked, for specific projects — which New Jersey’s state government was obliged to do by the end of this year — and more than $1.8 billion has already been spent. The deadline to spend the funds, though, is not until December 2026, and any unused funds must be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

What did ARP funds pay for in New Jersey?

Marc Pfeiffer, assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University, said it was expected that the projects were longer-term and some of the ones that are set to receive funding may not have been in as obvious need at the start of the pandemic.

“I think the administration did a reasonably good job of not spending all the money at once on issues and kind of kept their powder dry to deal with some things down the road that weren’t necessarily apparent right up front,” he said.

To be considered, projects were proposed through a legislative process based on the combined priorities of the administration and the Legislature.

Pfeiffer also said some of the money may have been spent on projects that don’t seem as significant, but a large portion was spent on “really important stuff.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars were dedicated to hospital infrastructure and preparedness plans, millions have been earmarked for child care facilities and tens of millions will upgrade the technology for state services like unemployment and the Motor Vehicle Commission.

Pfeiffer did say the political needs of legislators may also have been taken into consideration as well.

“They also had the ability in the Legislature to use the money in districts to support district activities,” he said. “Legislators wind up needing to balance different needs, and those are hard decisions for them, or which seem like hard decisions for us, but may be easy decision for them because they’re elected officials. Does favoring one group over another when it comes to Democrats getting money and Republican districts not getting money? For Democrats that maybe an easy choice to make.”

North Jersey.com, March 31, 2024