States pocketed millions in COVID-relief cash for pet projects

Kudlow: COVID relief bill would be a vehicle to put on every left-wing wish list item

FOX Business host weighs in on the Democrats’ spending spree on ‘Kudlow.’

States across America pocketed COVID-19 relief cash to use on pet projects.

President Biden’s signature legislation, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, allocated $350 billion to assist struggling localities and states get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, some states used hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID relief money for pet projects.


Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., walks down the House steps after a vote in the Capitol Sept. 15, 2020. ( Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Broward County, Florida, dropped $140 million in American tax dollars on a new, 29-story luxury hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with 800 rooms and an 11,000-foot spa.

Broward County officials defended their use of the money to build the hotel that would be owned by the county but run by a private management group.

County officials changed course with cash they initially earmarked to the hotel project, putting it in the county’s general fund to offset tax revenue losses, a federally-acceptable use of the money.

The money was then transferred back to the hotel project from the general fund.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., was sharply critical of how states used COVID relief funds.  (Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

"No federal funds will be used to pay any of the cost of developing the hotel project," county Administrator Monica Cepero told the AP. "The County has reviewed the Treasury guidance and modified its use of [the] funds," she said.

Dutchess County, New York, paid $12 million in federal funds to renovate a Yankees-affiliated minor league team’s stadium.

Massachusetts saw $5 million in taxpayer dollars pay off debts of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.

Dutchess County officials also backed their use of the money, calling it "completely and absolutely consistent" with how Congress instructed to spend the money. The Edward Kennedy Institute did not respond to the AP’s request for comment.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said states and localities “need to give us an accounting” of how they spent COVID relief funds.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File / AP Newsroom)

"It’s ironic that this criticism emanates from the same congressional members who have brought back pork barrel earmarks," Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro said.

Tax filings showed the Edward Kennedy Institute was operating in the red between 2015 and 2019 to the tune of $27 million.

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, Democrats said, was desperately needed to save jobs, help those in distress, open schools and increase vaccinations.

Other pet projects undertaken by states using taxpayer dollars include $400 million to create new prisons in Alabama, $2 million to Pottawattamie County, Iowa, to buy a privately-owned ski area, $6.6 million to replace two Colorado Springs golf courses' irrigation systems and a combined $80 million for tourism marketing campaigns for Puerto Rico; Tuscon, Arizona; and Washington, D.C.

"For months, Republicans warned Americans about the inflationary consequences of the Democrats’ mammoth spending," Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., a practicing physician and GOP Doctors Caucus vice chair, told Fox News Digital Wednesday. 

"This AP report confirms what we already knew: The so-called American Rescue Plan was a $2T sham that wasted billions in taxpayer dollars and directly contributed to Biden’s current economic crisis.

"Democrats consistently fail to foresee the consequences of their actions," Murphy continued. "We must demand accountability for liberals' no-strings-attached handouts and stop Democrats from bankrupting the future of our nation."

Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., who is running for Senate, told Fox News Digital liberals "in Washington took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to pass trillions of dollars of progressive wish list items."

U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.  (Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"It’s entirely unsurprising that so-called ‘COVID relief’ has been used to break ground on fancy new hotels and spas and even pay off debts for nonprofit organizations," Mullin said. "Democrat Socialists in Congress sent free money — at the taxpayers’ expense — to fund local pet projects under the guise of relief. They lied to the American people."

Mullin said that "American families are always left to foot the bill for Chuck Schumer’s out-of-control spending" and that with "inflation at the highest levels since 1982 and gas prices hitting record levels, leftist polices are entirely to blame for the financial hardship that is plaguing families across the nation.

"The mainstream media should ask Nancy Pelosi how funding a new ski slope is relevant to the fight against COVID-19," he added. "I guarantee she won’t have an answer, because she doesn’t care."

"Outrageous" and "just nuts" is how Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., described some of the expenditures, which she said were an affront to responsible government.

"Our hospitals were overwhelmed because of the pandemic, and somebody now has a hotel somewhere?" she added.

President Biden visits a vaccination site at Virginia Theological Seminary April 6, 2021, in Alexandria, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said the states and localities "need to give us an accounting."

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

Romney also said that 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."

The Associated Press published a review of the expenditures Wednesday.

The report came after Congress passed a hefty $1.5 trillion spending bill that included scores of earmarks that dole out millions of taxpayer dollars to several lawmakers' pet projects.


U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., is a staunch opponent of earmarks, which he refers to as the "giveaway program." He warned that they are the "cocaine of this generation" of lawmakers in a phone interview with Fox News Digital.

"I mean, the whole thing is an abomination to this country," Norman said. "To spend $1.5 trillion, which is a 16% increase of the total of last year's budget and to go further in debt. You can pick out any number of these earmarks … with no offsets? It continues to amaze me.

"We're on a path that bankrupts this country. And for the Republicans, who are supposed to be the party of conservatism, to do this is completely shocking to me. And we don’t know the half of it because nobody has read the thing."

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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