An internal government watchdog is investigating whether Florida misused federal funds to pay for migrant flights to Martha’s VineyardMassachusetts last month under a program backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation asked the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General last month to determine whether Florida improperly paid for the flights with money from the State and Local Tax Recovery Fund, which was created by legislation on Capitol Hill. Hill.
in a letter On the Friday that was made public Wednesday, Richard K. Delmar, deputy inspector general for the Treasury Department, told Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and four members of the state House that the office had contacted Florida seeking details. about the use of federal information. funds through general oversight and “has planned audit work on recipients’ compliance with eligible use guidance.”
Delmar said the office planned to get the audit work done “as quickly as possible” and noted that legislative and judicial challenges related to the fund and its use for immigration-related purposes could affect the scope and timing of the review.
A network of immigrant-led organizations based in Chicago and the immigrants who flew to Martha’s Vineyard under the Florida program sued in September. claiming that the money DeSantis used for the program was unauthorized because “it came from the federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund and was therefore subject to its use restrictions.”
The federal program, a component of the US $1.9 trillion bailout plan passed by Congress in March 2021, provides $350 billion to state and local governments to boost pandemic recovery efforts.
Delmar also said the inspector general’s office would review what restrictions exist on using the money, including interest earned, for immigration-related activities.
reported politician Delmar’s letter the previous Wednesday.
Markey, who was among the group that signed the Sept. 16 letter demanding an investigation, applauded the inspector general in a statement Wednesday.
“For the sake of the migrants who were lured onto charter planes under false pretenses, and for the commendable residents of the Commonwealth who came together to offer support, I hope this investigation sheds light on whether Governor DeSantis misused funds. earmarked for COVID relief for Floridians,” Markey said.
DeSantis has insisted that no law was broken and pledged to continue his administration’s $12 million program to resettle immigrants.
Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said in a statement Wednesday that “weeks ago” the state Office of Policy and Budget had discussed with the watchdog the use of interest earned from the federal program for migrant transportation.
“OPB has articulated to Treasury’s OIG that our use of this interest, as appropriated by the Florida Legislature, is permitted,” Fenske said, citing compliance requirements. “Reviews by Treasury are typical and, as stated by the OIG, are ‘part of its oversight responsibilities.'”
NBC News has asked the Treasury Department for comment.