New Jersey's 26th Legislative District

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio Calls for Resignations of Veterans Homes’ Officials Who Wrongly Accepted Federal COVID Relief Money

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Senator Joe Pennacchio blasted the Murphy Administration today after published reports revealed managers at state-run veterans’ homes were paid COVID 19 bonuses they were not eligible to receive.

Senator Joe Pennacchio called for the resignation of eight senior-level managers at NJ veterans’ homes who who accepted COVID hazard pay bonuses they did not qualify to receive. (Pixabay)

“The audacity of these bungling bureaucrats to accept COVID payoffs after the horrors they brought on the residents and healthcare workers is beyond appalling,” said Pennacchio. “Unfortunately, given the Administration’s complete lack of transparency, it isn’t surprising. Repeatedly, the pandemic has been used as a shield to obscure questionable actions from public and legislative scrutiny.”

According The Wall Street Journal, eight senior-level managers received COVID-related hazard pay, although their salaries were too high to qualify for the federal relief funds “meant for lower level state employees who worked in dangerous conditions dealing directly with COVID-19 patients.”

The published report cited emails indicating “the nursing-home managers procured the payments after being repeatedly told that they were ineligible.”

“They didn’t care about the rules or doing the right thing, and they certainly didn’t think they would get caught,” said Pennacchio. “This was an intentional act, a money-grab that was an insult to the bedside-workers the money was intended to help and to the lives lost in mismanaged facilities. There must be accountability and anyone who accepted the money should resign in disgrace.”

Inappropriate payments were made to managers at all three of the state’s veterans’ homes, and the Journal report found that at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, three administrators received a more than $40,000 between them.

“It is obvious the veterans home leadership was more concerned about their own wallets than the veterans and family members under their watch. It is tragic that these ‘managers’ didn’t apply the same energy and determination to protect the residents of their facilities and save lives,” Pennacchio continued. “Their pandemic performance was atrocious, and as a result the Menlo Park veterans home became one of the nation’s deadliest places for COVID-19.”

For more than a year, Pennacchio has spearheaded efforts to pass his resolution (SR-68) creating a bipartisan select committee with subpoena power to review the Murphy Administration’s pandemic response efforts. The Democrat majority has repeatedly blocked the efforts to investigate the Democrat Governor.

“The Governor’s Administration maintained secrecy through the duration of the pandemic,” said Pennacchio. “A Senate Select investigation could look behind the curtain and see what has really been going on. The veterans’ home revelation leads to this question: What else have they been hiding?”

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