*Editor's note: The state has selected the Olson Group Ltd. in Alexandria, Virginia, to conduct the one-year review. An earlier version of this story identified a different Olson Group Ltd. in New York City.
A consulting firm based in Alexandria, Virginia is closing in on finalizing a state contract to evaluate policies and decisions made in New York throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Top state officials selected Olson Group Ltd., which specializes in emergency management and homeland security planning and analysis, to conduct the one-year review.
It will cost up to $4.3 million, according to the governor's office.
“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."
The Olson Group Ltd. was founded to support the recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast in 2005. The firm specializes in advising government agencies, businesses, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations in crises management across the U.S., according to its website.
The firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Gov. Kathy Hochul this summer announced the state will hire an outside firm to assess the state's handling of the pandemic, and evaluate the impact on the workplace and labor, businesses, congregate care facilities, schools and number of deaths. The state started accepting bids to a Request For Proposal for the review in late July.
It's unclear when the contract will be finalized. The review is expected to begin this month, according to the original proposal request. Bids were due Aug. 17.
State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray will oversee the review, but Bray and governor's staff worked together to select the firm.
The firm will publish a report of its findings when the review is completed, Hochul said this summer. The governor will receive an update six months through, or likely late next spring.
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. But lawmakers and other advocates took issue with Hochul's administration handling the state-led review — expressing concern the firm selected will not be intimidated to demand answers to difficult questions from officials who may have influenced pandemic decisions.
The outside agency that will perform this investigation will report directly to Bray, Hochul and other top aides, who will control releasing the firm's findings and information.
The governor cannot grant subpoena power to the agency that conducts this review, per state law.