Federal regulators investigate whether coronavirus aid facilitated immigration flights in Florida

Federal regulators are investigating whether Florida improperly used coronavirus aid to transport migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, as part of an expanded government probe into states that used pandemic funds for a controversial immigration crackdown.

The Treasury Inspector General confirmed its new interest in a letter to senators last week. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and other members of Congress expressed concern about spending approved by the governor. Ron DeSantis (R) “violated federal law.”

Federal covid aid enables Florida to pay for immigrant flights

The investigation comes about a month after Florida flew dozens of immigrants, including children, from Texas to Massachusetts, the latest example of a Republican-led state sending immigrants to Democratic-leaning communities. .

To pay for the flights, DeSantis said he would use $12 million in the state’s most recent budget. But the state of Florida received more than $8 billion in interest from the last federal stimulus package, known as the U.S. Rescue Package, as part of its yearlong investigation into pandemic aid, The Washington Post reported. got the money. Covid money road.

This approach sparked an immediate legal debate, especially since the flights originated in Texas. It also raises new questions about the state of stimulus oversight in Washington, where Congress has given local governments wide latitude to use their appropriations as they see fit. The Treasury Department has less to say about how states use the interest accrued if the funds go unused, potentially opening the door for Florida to act.

When asked about the investigation, the White House referred the matter to the Treasury Department, which declined to comment. Its inspector general confirmed the letter but declined to comment. A spokesman for DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Covid Money Road

It’s the largest burst of emergency spending in U.S. history: two years, six laws and more than $5 trillion aimed at breaking the deadly grip of the coronavirus pandemic. That money saved the U.S. economy from ruin and put vaccines in the arms of millions, but it also invited unprecedented levels of fraud, abuse, and opportunism.

In a yearlong investigation, The Washington Post is following the coronavirus money trail to find out where all that cash is going.

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The probe into Florida spending is just the latest in a probe into federal aid in the Republican-led state. As The Washington Post first reported earlier this year, the Treasury Department’s top regulator previously announced that it would review Texas’ use of different budget moves to tap federal coronavirus relief funds to reduce border enforcement costs misconduct.

In both cases, the investigations involve emergency federal programs designed to provide local governments with great flexibility to respond to public health and economic needs. Yet Republican leaders have repeatedly used funds for unrelated purposes and political pet projects — from building prisons in Atlanta to seeking tax cuts in Florida and elsewhere — at least in the spirit of congressional relief efforts.

How federal pandemic aid is helping Texas pay for its border crackdown

In Florida, critics called the approach wasteful, arguing that federal funds could have been better spent on improving local education, improving hospitals or otherwise helping low-income residents. In Massachusetts, which sent immigrants from Florida, Markey and other Democratic lawmakers, including the House of Representatives. Seth Moulton and Ianna Presley described the flight as a “political stunt”, which they said “defeated the intent of Congress”.

“While this rule is designed to provide flexibility for state and local governments, Congress neither intends to allow or authorize state governments to use SLFRF funds for immigration enforcement,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the inspector general last month. Probability is required. SLFRF refers to the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, a $350 billion program under the U.S. Relief Program that awards funds to the state of Florida.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s lead regulator responded Friday, acknowledging in a letter that it was seeking a “more detailed analysis” of its guidelines from the agency.

Richard wrote: “We will generally review the licensing of immigration-related SLFRF funds and will specifically identify whether Florida uses SLFRF-related interest for immigration-related purposes, and if so, apply here. Conditions and Limitations of Class Use.” K. Delmar, Deputy Inspector General.

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