According to an investigation by the Associated Press, state and local governments have spent roughly $1 billion in federal coronavirus help on projects that have little to do with the pandemic.
Broward County, Florida, officials recently broke construction on a high-end hotel with views of the Atlantic Ocean and an 11,000-square-foot spa, thanks to a $140 million funding infusion.
Dutchess County, New York, promised $12 million to renovate a minor league baseball stadium to meet the Yankees’ standards for their farm clubs.
In Massachusetts, lawmakers gave $5 million to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston, a nonprofit founded to memorialize the late senator but struggling financially.
The three disparate expenditures have one thing in common: they are all among the dozens of projects that state and local governments across the country are funding with federal coronavirus relief money, despite having little to do with combating the pandemic, according to an Associated Press investigation.
Republicans are already balking at President Joe Biden’s request for more money for pandemic assistance, and projects that appear to be far distant from those that directly combat the virus will likely add to the GOP’s resistance.
“They have to account to us,” said Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who attempted unsuccessfully last year to amend the Democrats’ measure to place further restrictions on how the money might be spent.
“Show us how you’ve already spent the money Congress provided you. “He added, “It’s difficult to conceive how a four-star hotel is helping to solve COVID’s agony.”
Rep. Abigail Anne Spanberger, D-Va., called some of the spending “outrageous” and “simply insane,” saying they were an affront to competent local governments. “Our hospitals were overburdened as a result of the outbreak, and now someone has a hotel?” she continued.
They also question whether or not federal funds are being used for the project. Broward County diverted $140 million in federal coronavirus funding to the project, which was in violation of Treasury Department rules prohibiting the use of the funds for significant capital projects.