As Congress plans new pandemic payout, critics point to massive waste of latest COVID slush fund

New funding for COVID and the pandemic response should be on the table when Congress returns from recess next week. But some lawmakers want to know what happened to the rest of the money handed out.

Local governments spent part of the US bailout on things like stadium upgrades, new hotels, ski areas and prisons. The money was intended to help Americans recover from the economic impact of COVID, but the broad definitions of how the money could be used made it possible to pay for projects like these with taxpayer dollars.

“The US bailout provided $350 billion to state and local governments with very few strings attached,” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizen Against Government Waste.

“The federal government is very good at giving money and doesn’t care how it’s spent, and doesn’t care if it comes back if it’s wasted. There’s no guarantee when the money comes from Washington,” he said.

A new COVID spending package should probably contain offsets to determine how it will be paid. Some lawmakers have questioned the accounting for the billions of dollars already distributed.

“There was uncertainty then, to live and learn, and we need to make sure we’re not hiding unspent COVID funds when we’re talking about maybe spending more on COVID if it were to break out again. “said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN).

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) led the negotiations on reallocating COVID money before the break. His office said it reached a $10 billion deal for a new bill before it ran into further trouble.

Doug Badger of the Heritage Foundation says there will still be challenges getting the bill through Congress when lawmakers return.

“At this point, when the administration says we need more money for COVID, it should be met with bipartisan skepticism, Congress should be asking the tough questions,” he said.

A deal was reached on new funding before the break, but it was derailed by Title 42, an immigration policy impacting the southern border. That could still play a role when Congress returns from recess.