Across the country, some states have decided to implement some of their pandemic relief money into the entertainment industry, and the response to this action has been mixed at best.
- N.Y. has used pandemic relief funds to renovate a minor league baseball stadium
- Florida has started construction on a high-end hotel
- Iowa purchased privately-owned ski area
- Congressmen are not happy with how state and county officials are using the funds
Pandemic Relief Money Has Caused a Rift Between Officials
The funds in question came as a result of the American Rescue Plan. Last year, the plan dispersed $350 billion to the states as a part of the whopping $1.9 trillion bill. The intention was to provide some relief from the pandemic which has dramatically affected the job market, schools and individuals struggling financially.
But not everyone followed the rules that officials suggested for the funds.
In New York, state officials used $12 million to renovate a minor league baseball stadium to meet the requirements that the Yankees have for farm teams. Further south in Florida, they’ve started to construct a high-end hotel with an 11,000 square foot pool. In Iowa, the state has purchased a privately owned ski area. And out west in Colorado, they’ve pledged $6.6 million to replace the irrigation systems at two golf courses in Colorado Springs.
Needless to say, Congressmen are not happy with how some states are implementing the pandemic relief money.
“They need to give us an accounting,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. “Show us how you’ve already spent the money Congress gave you,” he said, adding, “It’s hard to imagine how a four-star hotel is helping to solve the pain of COVID.”
Of course, not every state has used its pandemic relief money for fancy hotels and golf courses. In fact, states like Missouri have used over $1 million to pay off overdue child support. Meanwhile, Washington D.C. used $2.5 million to hire new parking enforcement officers.
But the more lavish spending across the country is still cause for concern.
“Our hospitals were overwhelmed because of the pandemic and somebody now has a hotel somewhere?” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va said.
County Officials Fire Back Against Complaints About Spending
Now that they’ve seen how some states are spending their funds, Senators and Representatives are calling for more oversight with the spending of the pandemic relief money.
However, County Executives aren’t afraid to defend their decisions.
“Counties should be able to determine what’s best for them,” said Mark Ritacco, director of government affairs for the National Association of Counties. “Their residents will decide whether that was appropriate or not at the ballot box.”
“It’s ironic that this criticism emanates from the same congressional members who have brought back pork barrel earmarks,” added Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro.
Rich Delmar, the deputy inspector general for the Treasury Department, has yet to say whether they are looking into the states’ use of the funds.
In an email, he stated that “All projects are potentially subject to audit and investigation” and that the department is “actively engaging in oversight.”