On Friday, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., sent a letter to U.S. Department of Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin requesting he make sure state and local governments use taxpayer dollars from the Coronavirus Relief Fund in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act for spending directly related to their coronavirus response – not to backfill lost revenue or plug holes in poorly designed state budgets.
Scott wrote the following:
Dear Secretary Mnuchin:
I write regarding the Coronavirus Relief Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes assistance for state and local governments for spending directly related to their coronavirus response.
As our efforts to respond to – and ultimately defeat – the coronavirus continue, state and local governments are at the front lines of this war. They are working tirelessly to protect our communities – an enormous task in this difficult time. The CARES Act that Congress passed helps state and local governments do everything they can to keep families safe through the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
Section 5001(d) of the CARES Act outlines the purposes for which Coronavirus Relief Fund payments may be used. This section expressly limits eligible expenses to those that “are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).” Additionally, it mandates that these payments may “not [be] accounted for in the budget most recently approved” by the state or local government.
As you finalize guidance for the Coronavirus Relief Fund, I urge you to keep these statutory requirements at the forefront. Unfortunately, I am already hearing reports that some states and localities would like to use these dollars as a piggybank for unrelated expenses or that they may attempt to double-dip by requesting funds for the same expense from multiple federal sources. Federal dollars should not be used to backfill lost revenue or plug holes in poorly designed state budgets. Americans expect that their tax dollars will be used for coronavirus response, not to backfill decades of bad fiscal policy in certain states.
Throughout my time as governor of Florida, we faced hurricanes, a terrorist attack and the Zika virus. Through all of these crises, I learned that sometimes, difficult fiscal decisions had to be made when resources were demanded elsewhere. Coronavirus is no different. Government at every level must work together to spend taxpayer dollars wisely to end the coronavirus crisis.