From the NJ Herald:
It’s become a dangerous cycle.
Public health funding is slashed. An emergency strikes. Governments pour money into the problem and then cut funding once again after the crisis subsides.
Local health officials in New Jersey fear that this will happen again.
The Garden State agreed to pay close to $37 million in contracts to hire and train contact tracers for six months. This provisional workforce notifies those who spent time around an infected individual and helps them with what to do next, a crucial step to keep COVID-19 from spreading further.
The state plans to pay the Rutgers School of Public Health $13.3 million for developing a six-part course and hiring and training 1,000 students across the state from June 1 through Sept. 15, a memorandum of agreement shows. This nearly doubled the state’s workforce.
After that, Public Consulting Group is to take over administering the program and paying tracers for at least the next three months at a price tag of $23.5 million. About $20.7 million of that will cover wages for 1,200 tracers paid $35 an hour, according to the purchase order.
Federal funds are supposed to fill in the gaps, as the Murphy administration reduced certain state line items in his budget proposal, such as cutting “public health infectious disease control” from $2.5 million to $1.9 million.
But of the more than $650 million in federal stimulus money identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the Garden State is allowed to pass down to local health departments over multiple years, the state has so far only allocated at most $74.3 million, or about 11%. Those funds have restrictions, and only a fraction, $2.3 million, has been passed out.