By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The federal government has signed off on some $6 trillion in total COVID relief funding. That’s not enough for tax-and-spender-in-chief President Joe Biden.
The Democrat is now asking congress for $22.5 billion more.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) and 35 of his Republican colleagues are saying, Hold the phone, Joe.
The lawmakers have sent a letter requesting the administration provide an account of how the federal government has allocated the mountain of taxpayer funds designated for the fight against COVID to date. They say Biden has some questions to answer before congress loosens the purse strings for another shot of pandemic relief.
“While we have supported historic, bipartisan measures in the United States Senate to provide unprecedented investments in vaccines, therapeutics, and testing, it is not yet clear why additional funding is needed,” the senators wrote.
Since passage of the American Rescue Plan in February, questions are mounting about where exactly the additional money has gone, the senators state in the letter. A recent Washington Post investigative report headlined, “’Immense fraud’ creates immense task for Washington as it tries to tighten scrutiny of $6 trillion in emergency coronavirus spending” details the federal government’s “shocking failure to provide the American public with a faithful accounting of how it has spent its money.”
Before considering supporting billions more for COVID-19 relief, “Congress must receive a full accounting of how the government has already spent the first $6 trillion,” the senators concluded.
The same questions are being asked of Gov. Tony Evers, who has nearly complete control over some $5 billion in federal pandemic relief funds.
The Evers administration has a record of fraud problems in distributing COVID aid. A report last year found the troubled Department of Workforce Development had failed to check fraudulent activity. And it appears the Department of Health Services has stopped trying to track fraud — or at least issue timely reports on its findings.
A state audit recently ordered by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee aims to track the billions, and whether the Evers administration has been good stewards of the federal funds.
The Biden administration, like Evers’ team, has earned an awful reputation for transparency. As The Washington Post reports:
“Nearly two years later, however, the stimulus data is voluminous yet vexing — for the public and the government alike. The spending portal does not offer a real-time detailed view to the way cities, states, schools, hospitals and others actually have deployed broad swaths of the cash they received. In education, for example, federal records show more than $81 billion set aside for school districts in response to the pandemic. Yet the information is 90 days old in some cases and offers no insight as to what those communities actually did once they obtained the grants.”
It’s the same knock on the Evers administration, which government watchdogs have criticized for its failure to deliver timely information on COVID relief spending.
“We strongly believe Americans should continue to take precautionary measures to protect against the pandemic, and it must be an urgent priority that the trillions of taxpayer dollars already appropriated are being spent effectively,” the Republican senators admonish in their letter to Biden.