Governor Kim Reynolds Under Fire for Negligent Spending of COVID-19 Relief Funds
Each side of the political aisle has viewed and approached the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways -- passing bipartisan legislation or getting both sides to agree on quite literally anything over the last 5-10 years has become almost impossible. This is the world we live in, unfortunately.
Here's one place I'd like to think most would agree: Kim Reynolds was wrong.
According to apnews.com, state audit determined that rather than using $450,000 granted by the federal government for COVID-19 relief, Reynolds used the money in the following way:
to pay salaries for 21 staff members for three months last year and concealing the spending by passing it through the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Quite obviously, the money was allocated to help the public. The U.S. Treasury identified four specific causes to push the money towards. As listed by the Iowa City Press-Citizen:
responding to COVID-19's public health and economic impacts; premium pay for eligible workers who perform essential work; addressing lost revenue and restoring government service; and making investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
State Auditor Rob Sand said it was unclear as to why Reynolds deemed it necessary to use federal funds rather than state funds. He said the following in the audit report.
What is not clear, is why these salaries were not included in the governor’s budget set prior to the fiscal year and prior to the pandemic. Based on this information, we conclude that the budget shortfall was not a result of the pandemic.
Sand stated that he twice requested documentation from Reynold's office regarding the spending and was brushed off, being told "the governor’s staff members during March, April, May and June of 2020 were fully focused on responding to COVID-19 and protecting Iowa," but he was never given proof of the expenditure on the COVID response.
The governor's office response responded with a statement and referenced the "premium pay for eligible workers who perform essential work," portion of where the relief money could be allocated.
The statement included the following as well, according to AP News:
During this time, the Governor’s staff spent a vast majority of their time responding to the pandemic. In fact, many members of Gov. Reynolds’ staff worked seven days a week out of the State Emergency Operation Center to provide direct support to Iowans. This has always been our justification for the expense. We are now working with Treasury to provide them documentation, per their request.
Sand responded, seeming puzzled.
If you’re coming up with documentation after the fact after you’ve said twice you don’t have it, that should be concerning too.
He added that the state government may be required to pay back the $450,000.