BELVIDERE, N.J. - Nearly six months into the coronavirus pandemic, Warren County will finally receive state aid toward COVID-19 relief.
On Wednesday, the Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved an agreement between the county and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management and the New Jersey Department of Health for funding for COVID-19 testing and reimbursement of existing COVID-19 expenses.
Under the agreement, the county will receive a total of $1.38 million.
“Warren County was put on the back burner and we’re getting the cookie crumbs,” said Freeholder Director Richard Gardner. “Our people may not be as valuable to this governor and his administration and it’s reprehensible. However, there’s a few meager dollars coming this direction and we’re going to have to put it to good use.”
The money, officials said, will be distributed to three areas:
- $397,404 will go toward reimbursement costs for expenses incurred by the county from the start of the pandemic in March until June.
- $357,500 will go toward the development and set up of a testing site.
- $626,736 will be used for testing of Warren County residents until June 30, 2021.
And while officials said they are glad to finally receive some funding, they believed the relief was long overdue.
“Our cry for aid was not heard until three weeks ago,” said Freeholder James Kern III.
“We have been put on the shelf here, with no regard to our public,” said Gardner. “We are not receiving the attention we deserve here.”
“The county was left to fight all on our own,” said Freeholder Jason Sarnoski. “It’s not fair to our taxpayers, but unfortunately we have little recourse.”
Earlier this year, the state’s Department of Treasury excluded Warren, Sussex, Hunterdon and Salem counties from funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security act.
Through its own funding, the county opened up a COVID-19 testing site temporarily at the Warren County Technical School in Washington. That site has been closed since June.
“We have to protect our citizens to the best of our abilities,” Gardner said. “That is our number one job.”
Because the county decided to use its own funds to open up a testing site, officials said that they could be facing a $2 million budget deficit for 2021.
“While other states like the Pennsylvania governor have given $1 million to each county without any conditions, our state continues to put conditions on money,” Sarnoski said.
“This board has the obligation and the responsibility to look out for our citizens,” Gardner said. “Nevertheless, it still costs dollars.”