AP reports that Broward hotel project is among many using federal COVID relief money
The Broward project and many other state and local projects across the country are using federal coronavirus relief money despite having little to do with combating the pandemic,
An Associated Press review finds that state and local governments have spent nearly $1 billion worth of federal coronavirus aid on projects that have little to do with combating the pandemic.
The spending includes $140 million by Broward County that will help to build an upscale hotel in Fort Lauderdale, adjacent to the Broward County Convention Center.
When congressional Democrats passed their $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan a year ago, they characterized it as “emergency funding” that would keep front-line workers on the job, open schools and ramp up vaccinations.
However, much of money went toward projects such as a $12 million renovation of a minor league baseball stadium in Dutchess County, New York, and new Alabama prisons that received $400 million.
In Broward, the 29,story, 800-room hotel recently broke ground. When complete, the high-end hotel will have views of the Atlantic Ocean and an 11,000-square-foot spa.
County officials defended their project, which will be owned by the county but operated by a private management group, the AP reported.
They also contest whether federal money is technically being used for the project. Broward initially routed $140 million in federal coronavirus aid to the project, which ran against Treasury Department rules that generally bar spending the money on large capital projects.
To get around the prohibition, the county adopted a common workaround.
The agenda from a Feb. 22 county board meeting details how: In a back-to-back series of unopposed votes, commissioners clawed back the federal money they had given to the hotel. They then transferred it to the county’s general fund, describing it as a federal payment to cover lost tax revenue, which is an acceptable use. Then the cash was transferred from the general fund right back to the project.