GOP demands answers, COVID money reportedly splurged on hotels, ballparks, ski slopes, and more

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American cities and states are allegedly splurging on all kinds of wishlist items using COVID relief funds ranging from a pricey hotel, to a ballpark, to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute and the money is flowing with little to no oversight.

Broward County, Florida has $140 million in relief funds burning a hole in its pocket, so officials decided to spend it on a pricey hotel that boasts views of the Atlantic Ocean and an 11,000 square-foot spa.

Dutchess County, New York is flush with $12 million that they are spending on a minor league baseball stadium.

Massachusetts is dumping $5 million into the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate in Boston to pay off its debts.

And that is just a taste of the pork being spent out there. States across the country are drunk with federal coronavirus relief money that is being blown on just about everything but pandemic-related items, according to the Associated Press.

“The expenditures amount to a fraction of the $350 billion made available through last year’s American Rescue Plan to help state and local governments weather the crisis. But they are examples of uses of the aid that are inconsistent with the rationale that Democrats offered for the record $1.9 trillion bill: The cash was desperately needed to save jobs, help those in distress, open schools and increase vaccinations,” the AP surprisingly noted.

Republicans understandably want an accounting of where all the money is going even as President Joe Biden requests more pandemic relief funds.

“They need to give us an accounting,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) demanded. He unsuccessfully attempted to amend the Democrats’ bill last year adding limitations on spending the funds.

“Show us how you’ve already spent the money Congress gave you,” he charged, adding, “It’s hard to imagine how a four-star hotel is helping to solve the pain of COVID.”

The non-COVID pork-barrel spending is nothing short of tragically impressive. New Jersey, for instance, allocated $15 million for upgrades to bolster its bid to host the 2026 World Cup. Woonsocket, Rhode Island, laid aside $53,000 to remodel City Hall.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) called the expenditures “outrageous” and “just nuts.” She also called them an affront to responsible local governments.

“Our hospitals were overwhelmed because of the pandemic and somebody now has a hotel somewhere?” she asked, incredulous.

It gets even worse, according to the AP:

—$400 million to build new prisons in Alabama, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the total aid the state will receive through the program.

—tens of millions of dollars for tourism marketing campaigns in Puerto Rico ($70 million), Washington, D.C. ($8 million) and Tucson, Arizona ($2 million). The city of Alexandria, Virginia, also announced it would spend $120,000 to give its tourism website a makeover.

—$6.6 million to replace irrigation systems at two golf courses in Colorado Springs.

—$5 million approved by Birmingham, Alabama, to support the 2022 World Games. The event features niche sporting contests such as DanceSport, korfball and flying disc.

—$2.5 million to hire new parking enforcement officers in Washington, D.C.

—$2 million to help Pottawattamie County, Iowa, purchase a privately owned ski area.

—$1 million to pay off overdue child support in St. Louis. A city memo states that owing child support stops some people from looking for work because the overdue payments are garnished from paychecks; the program would “empower individuals” by paying down a portion.

—$300,000 to establish a museum in Worcester, Massachusetts, honoring Major Taylor, a famed Black bicycle rider from the turn of the 20th century known as the “Worcester Whirlwind” who died in 1932.

The Treasury Department doesn’t seem to have a problem with any of this. Spokeswoman Liz Bourgeois called the program a success that allows states and local governments to “recover from financial distress” and “achieve their own strategies for restoring jobs and industries hit by the pandemic.”

“Ultimately local governments are accountable to their communities on their decisions on how best to use their funds,” Bourgeois said in a statement justifying the insane spending spree.

“The amount of money that went out was so massive and so far beyond anything that has ever been spent in our country before, that our capacity to audit every dollar spent is clearly stretched,” Romney remarked.

“Counties should be able to determine what’s best for them,” Mark Ritacco, director of government affairs for the National Association of Counties, defensively said. “Their residents will decide whether that was appropriate or not at the ballot box.”

At least one Democrat tried to raise campaign funds by opposing the clawing back of local money.

“We had a bit of a fight when they tried to take money away from Michigan,” claimed a fundraising email from Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell. “I was not going to let the Midwest get harmed. We won.”


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