Jersey City is paying the company millions to operate COVID-19 sites. Jersey councilors want to know how it is spent.
A couple of Jersey City councilors want to know how the company providing coronavirus vaccines and testing is spending the millions of dollars handed out by the city.
New York-based Bespoke Health was awarded a new $15 million annual contract at the January 12 city council meeting, but only after nearly half of the council expressed reservations about the deal. The deal was approved with only Frank Gilmore voting against.
Councilors James Solomon and Yousef Saleh have requested a breakdown of all Bespoke Health costs from the city‘s Department of Health and Human Services, but have yet to receive anything, Solomon said. He said the only cost shown is what the company spends on staff.
“We’re trying to see if they’re spending our money efficiently,” Solomon said Friday. “We’re trying to see if we’re getting what we paid for, if any services are being rendered.”
Bespoke Health is contracted to provide community outreach to promote COVID-19 vaccinations at five sites and operate a mobile unit and call center. It is also required to provide weekly and monthly measurements to the state Department of Health.
Under the Bespoke Health contract, each site includes a site manager, two registration staff, two clinical immunization staff, and a healthcare professional – at a cost of $575 per hour. The mobile unit and a call center cost the city an additional $575 per hour.
The city also pays $35,000 per month for management and advertising. The contract does not mention any other expenses.
Saleh said he just wanted to know where taxpayers’ money is going.
“I want to know because we donate the buildings (to Bespoke Health), it’s free,” Saleh said on Friday. “The vaccines are from the federal government, free. We take care of vaccine waste. The health department does a lot of marketing.
“I just want to know what we’re spending $15 million on.”
Bespoke Health officials did not respond to requests for additional information.
The company operates vaccination sites at Bethune Center, Gallo Center, Pershing Field and Connors Senior Center, which also performs COVID-19 testing. The company also operates a test site at the Collier Senior Center and several contextual sites in targeted areas of the city.
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said the city paid Bespoke $21 million in 2021 and 100% was covered by Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. This year’s contract will also be paid for with federal funds, she said.
“Through the city’s partnership with Bespoke, we have been very successful in getting 90% of our diverse population vaccinated and we were one of the first in the state to set up state-level testing and vaccination centers. local at the start of the pandemic. said Wallace-Scalcione.
Gilmore could not be reached for comment, but said: ‘I just don’t have enough data to make an informed decision as to how that money was spent on labor. I asked for more neighborhood-specific data regarding vaccination,” Hudson County View reported.
Saleh and Solomon say the contract should have been competitive to allow the city to seek other suppliers.
“We approved it, but we did it reluctantly because we were in the middle of the omicron wave,” Saleh said, referring to the latest variant which is blamed for causing an increase in positive tests.
At the Jan. 10 caucus meeting, Director of Health and Human Services Stacey Flanagan told city council that the Centers for Disease Control anticipates boosters will be available for children ages 12 to 15 and a secondary COVID-19 booster this year.
“Our goal is to reduce the need for external support and try to bring it in-house,” Flanagan said during the meeting.