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State lawmakers spent COVID pandemic money on new hotels, baseball stadiums, and ski slopes

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Instead of spending money for projects related to the coronavirus pandemic, several state lawmakers used federal coronavirus pandemic relief funds on things not remotely tied to COVID-19, according to a new report from the Associated Press. The report claims that states spent the COVID-19 relief funds on hotels, baseball stadiums, and ski slopes.

A high-end 29-story hotel with 800 rooms in Florida that will have views of the Atlantic Ocean and an 11,000 square-foot spa was provided with $140 million by officials in Broward County.`

The Hudson Valley Renegades – the High-A minor league baseball team affiliated with the New York Yankees – received $12 million in local government funds for renovations on their stadium in Dutchess County, New York.

In Massachusetts, lawmakers supplied $5 million to pay off the debts of the struggling Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate in Boston – a nonprofit civic engagement and educational institution honoring the late senator. The Edward Kennedy Institute operated at a $27 million loss between 2015 and 2019, according to tax filings.

New Jersey used $15 million for upgrades to bolster the state's bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

Officials in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, signed off on spending $53,000 to remodel the town's city hall.

Alabama reportedly used $400 million to build new prisons.

Puerto Rico spent $70 million on tourism marketing campaigns.

Colorado Springs allegedly used $6.6 million in pandemic relief funds to replace irrigation systems at two golf courses.

There was $2 million allotted to hiring new parking enforcement officers in Washington, D.C.

Officials in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, used COVID relief funds to purchase a privately owned ski area.

The AP reported that $1 million was spent to pay off overdue child support in St. Louis.

"A city memo states that owing child support stops some people from looking for work because the overdue payments are garnished from paychecks; the program would 'empower individuals' by paying down a portion," the outlet stated.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) reacted to the report by saying, "They need to give us an accounting. Show us how you’ve already spent the money Congress gave you. It's hard to imagine how a four-star hotel is helping to solve the pain of COVID."

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) told the AP, "Our hospitals were overwhelmed because of the pandemic and somebody now has a hotel somewhere?"

The Associated Press noted, "But with permissive Treasury Department rules governing how the pandemic money can be spent, state and local governments face few limitations."

Liz Bourgeois – a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department – said the program was a success in enabling state and local governments to "recover from financial distress."

“Ultimately local governments are accountable to their communities on their decisions on how best to use their funds,” Bourgeois said in a statement.

Mark Ritacco – director of government affairs for the National Association of Counties – argued, "Counties should be able to determine what’s best for them. Their residents will decide whether that was appropriate or not at the ballot box."

The American Rescue Plan provided money to state and local governments to save jobs, open schools, and increase COVID-19 vaccinations during the pandemic.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) warned in March 2021 that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is an "orgy of pork," chock-full of spending that is unrelated to COVID-19 pandemic relief. The coronavirus relief bill presented previously failing union pension plans a whopping $86 billion bailout.

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