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Watchdog investigating whether Texas misspent Covid aid on border crackdown, report says

By Johanna Chisholm
AP

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who made immigration a cornerstone issue of his administration since assuming office seven years ago, is catching heat from a federal watchdog investigating whether his state misspent Covid aid to offset the costs of his crackdown on the US-Mexico border.

Operation Lone Star, the Republican’s massive security mission that sought to increase arrests along the state’s southern border, was reportedly partially supported by rerouting roughly $1bn in public health and safety funds to the border, while the state continued to accept federal pandemic funds to replace some of that money lost, according to The Washington Post, who analysed the spending records.

The Treasury Department announced on Tuesday, according to the newspaper, that they were initiating a “review” into Mr Abbott’s state’s spending and to determine how they have used their federally allocated Covid aid.

This aid, as defined by the federal government, was intended to support state governments who are struggling to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE), pay their frontline workers or provide general support to public health institutions that have been running on fumes for more than two years as they continue to battle a deadly global pandemic that, according to official estimates from the Centers for Disease Control, has killed nearly 1 million Americans since the virus’s onset.

Washington is facing renewed scrutiny over the $6 trillion stimulus funds that were approved by Congress in the early days of the pandemic, with $500bn of that aid being directed to cities, counties and states across the country that carried very few stipulations about how that money could be spent by local governments.

In response to the Texas review, a spokesperson for Gov Abbott told The Washington Post that there was nothing suspect about how their budget had been managed and all Covid related aid, from the Cares Act, was used in a manner that aligns with federal guidelines.

“Here in Texas, we have worked with the legislature to allocate federal funds in a manner that adheres to federal guidance,” Renae Eze told The Post.

The Independent reached out to Gov Abbott’s office for comment on the review being conducted by the Treasury Department.

Ms Eze continued to defend the governor’s southern border tactics, which have received harsh criticism from the White House and migrant rights advocates who believe the Republican is engaging in dangerous activities to secure the border.

“Rather than attacking Texas for responding to their border disaster that they have created and escalated in the last year, President Biden and Democrats in Congress need to stop playing politics and do their jobs to secure our border,” Ms Eze wrote.

The news of the review comes just months after the Republican governor won his primary as he seeks a third term in November, during which he’ll be squaring off against Democratic candidate for governor, Beto O’Rourke.

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Dive Deeper:
Democrats demand US Treasury probe on Texas shifting COVID funds to border security
WASHINGTON — Texas Democrats in Congress have asked the U.S. Treasury to investigate whether Gov. Greg Abbott has misused up…
Abbott: "Keep formula from immigrants"
Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement condemning Biden for making formula available to immigrant babies
Biden marks imminent ‘tragic milestone’ of 1m US Covid deaths in address to global summit – as it happened
President under pressure on multiple fronts domestically
Editorial: Gov. Greg Abbott has gone too far on migrant children
Gov. Abbott, you have gone too far.
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Court set to rule on planned end to border expulsion policy
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Louisiana appears poised to step in as early as Friday to block the Biden…
Joe Biden calls inflation his ‘top domestic priority’ but blames Covid and Putin – as it happened
President says he understands American’s frustration with Democrats, who control all three branches of government: ‘I don’t blame them’
Get all your news in one place