Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 14, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — It appears Gov. Tony Evers has gone on a spending spree with the clock ticking down on states using federal COVID-19 funding.
The Evers administration has “allocated all” of the approximately $2 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money at its disposal, according to the latest figures submitted to the state Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
But that doesn’t mean all of the the money has been spent, something that has to be done by Dec. 30 or Wisconsin will have to return whatever is left to the federal treasury.
Wisconsin received $2.3 billion total in CARES Act funding. Gov. Tony Evers, under federal law, effectively has control over $1.9 billion of the funds to spend as he sees fit in protecting Wisconsin from “the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19.”
In the last report on Nov. 17, according to federal records, the Evers administration had allocated more than $1.1 billion of the total $2.3 billion, including money directly earmarked for Milwaukee and Madison.
The report before that on Nov. 6 showed Evers has spent $621 million. He had obligated another $484 million in CARES Act funding, and “committed” another $872 million, according to the Fiscal Bureau. Under federal law, states can’t merely obligate or commit money; they have to spend it by the deadline — or they lose it.
Team Evers has not provided a clear breakdown of expenditures, according to LFB. They’ll have to by Tuesday, when full reports are due to the U.S. Treasury Department.
U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Janesville) first raised concerns in July about the administration’s tardiness in spending and targeting the federal funding to respond to the public health and economic devastation caused by the pandemic. At that point, Evers had expended just 3.8 percent of the federal funding. The governor said at the time he had more of the money committed to COVID-19 relief programs and services than was noted in the expenditures.
While he spends through the federal funding, Evers has proposed a half-billion dollar state COVID-19 relief package.