Florida cities have received hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government in coronavirus relief money in the various stimulus measures passed by Congress.
Some cities are spending that money on infrastructure projects and job retraining programs along with rental and mortgage assistance.
But other cities are using the stimulus money to fund parks, playgrounds, the arts and golf courses–areas where critics argue that COVID money shouldn’t be spent.
In Palm Beach Gardens, government officials approved using COVID relief money to help build a brand-new 115-acre, par-3 golf course with bike paths and a clubhouse. The total costs stood a $16.8 million.
USA Today reported that city officials defended the spending as “an investment in our community.”
The city of Jacksonville approved more than $6.5 million of federal COVID relief funds for arts groups and other organizations. Critics have questioned the motives of Jacksonville City Council members for funding these groups which include the Museum of Science and History of Jacksonville; Historic Mount Zion of Jacksonville; Sheet Metal Workers JATC Fund; the Artist Connection Theater; Soulfitness Studio Health Smoothie and Juice Bar; the Arlington Football Association; Holley’s Bar‐B‐Que; the Mandarin Garden Club; the Ramallah American Club; Gown & Garter; the Posh Factory Performing Arts Center; the Jacksonville Arts & Music School; the Jacksonville Zoological Society; and the Florida Theatre Performing Arts Center.
Taxpayers attending City Council meetings spoke in opposition to these groups and arts organizations receiving COVID relief funds.
Jacksonville City Council Members Rory Diamond and Matt Carlucci opposed the process of allocating the COVID relief money, insisting that the groups chosen to receive funds had ties to Council members.
Adam Andrzejewski, the CEO of OpenTheBooks.com, said there are thousands of ways cities and counties have spent stimulus funds that should be used for COVID relief. Andrzejewski said cities have spent millions through grants for municipal programs which could be used for almost anything.
“Elected officials receiving stimulus money are spending it on projects and groups that have nothing to do with real COVID relief and the feds are just giving it away to cities and counties with very few, if any, restrictions on how the money can be spent,” said Andrzejewski.