All five of Arizona’s House congressional Democrats have signed a letter urging Gov. Doug Ducey to spend more of the state’s allocation of federal relief funds related to the coronavirus pandemic — and explain why it used $400 million of the money to offset existing government spending instead of fighting COVID-19.
Ducey’s administration came under fire late last year when it came to light that $400 million in CARES Act funds had been funneled to state agencies in an effort to alleviate operating costs.
“In light of the questions raised by your administration’s use of federal relief dollars and the limited details that have been provided to the public, we seek the following information,” U.S. Reps. Rueben Gallego, Raul Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, Tom O’Halleran and Greg Stanton wrote.
“These dollars were all used for COVID related issues within Treasury guidelines,” C.J. Karamargin, spokesman for Ducey said to Arizona Mirror. “We’re in constant communication about things like this.”
Arizona has been hit hard by the virus, which as of Feb. 4 has claimed the lives of more than 13,700 Arizonans, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Last year, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, most commonly known as the CARES Act which is a $2.2 trillion stimulus package aimed at offsetting the economic impact of the pandemic.
The Democrats want to know if Ducey’s office has been in communication with the Treasury Department Office of the Inspector General to make sure that spending didn’t violate the CARES Act. If it did, the state will would have to repay that money.
The letter also is asking Ducey for information about a fund meant to help stabilize school budgets that are taking hits due to loss of enrollment related to the pandemic. Ducey had said schools would not lose more than 2% of the funding they had the previous year, but that has not been the case in practice.
The same lawmakers also sent a letter on Dec. 16 about two rental assistance programs aimed at landlords and tenants, but never got a reply from Ducey’s office.
“Why is Governor Ducey refusing to actually spend COVID-19 federal relief dollars on Arizonans in crisis, like Congress intended?” Gallego wrote on Twitter. “We want answers.”
Arizona received $1.86 billion in CARES Act funds. About a quarter of that has gone to businesses, the largest recipients being in the health care industry.