HealthNew York

Virginia-based consulting company to review NY’s pandemic decisions

The contract for a consulting company located in Alexandria, Virginia, to analyze the policies and choices taken in New York during the COVID-19 pandemic is getting closer and closer to being finalized.

High-ranking state officials chose Olson Group Ltd., a company that specializes in planning and analyzing for disaster management and homeland security, to do the annual evaluation for the state.

The office of the governor estimates that the total cost might be as high as $4.3 million.

“We have identified the Olson Group as the winning bidder of the RFP for a contract with a maximum value of $4.3 million,” Hochul’s press secretary Hazel Crampton-Hays said Wednesday. “We are moving through the contract approval process.”

According to its website, The Olson Group Ltd. is a consulting firm that specializes in advising government agencies, businesses, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations across the United States on crisis management. The firm was founded in 2005 to support the recovery efforts that were taking place on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Wednesday’s request for the company’s response was not met with an instant response from the business.

This past summer, Governor Kathy Hochul made the announcement that the state would hire an outside firm to evaluate the impact of the pandemic on the workplace and labor, businesses, congregate care facilities, schools, and the number of deaths. The state began accepting bids for a Request for Proposal for the review in late July.

It is not known when the contract will be completed; however, the evaluation is scheduled to start this month, as stated in the initial call for proposals. The bid deadline was on August 17.

The evaluation will be done by Jackie Bray, who is the Commissioner of the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. She and the staff in the governor’s office worked together to choose the business.

Hochul said last summer that the company would publish a report on its findings after the assessment was over and that the governor would get an update six months into the process, which would likely be late spring of next year.

Firms that had previously contracted with the state to advise agencies and authorities about its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including relief, recovery programs, and support services, were ineligible, according to the RFP. However, lawmakers and other advocates took issue with how Hochul’s administration handled the state-led review. They expressed concern that the firm selected will not be intimidated into not demanding answers to difficult questions from officials who may have influenced the selection process.

The independent agency that will conduct this inquiry will submit its findings and information directly to Bray, Hochul, and any other senior aides, and these individuals will decide how the results and information are made public.

According to the laws of the state, the governor is not permitted to provide the agency that is conducting this study with the authority to issue subpoenas.

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