How were COVID funds spent? Mitt Romney, GOP senators want answers

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, laughs as he tours Kenworth Sales in West Valley City on Nov. 12, 2021. Before the federal government spends another dollar on COVID-19 relief, Romney and many of his Republican colleagues want to know what happened to the trillions already out there.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, laughs as he tours Kenworth Sales in West Valley City on Nov. 12, 2021. Before the federal government spends another dollar on COVID-19 relief, Romney and many of his Republican colleagues want to know what happened to the trillions already out there. (Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

WASHINGTON — Before the federal government spends another dollar on COVID-19 relief, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and many of his Republican colleagues want to know what happened to the trillions already out there.

Romney led 35 GOP Senators in a letter Wednesday to President Joe Biden seeking an accounting of how the government has allocated taxpayer funds to combat the pandemic.

"Since passage of the American Rescue Plan in February, questions are mounting about where exactly the additional money has gone," the senators wrote.

The Biden administration told lawmakers last month it may need about $30 billion in additional aid to combat the coronavirus, as it looks to restock key public health programs with new funds and ensure it is prepared against any future variants, the Washington Post reported last month.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Biden said the country needs to prepare for new COVID-19 variants.

"And, if Congress provides the funds we need, we'll have new stockpiles of tests, masks, and pills ready if needed," he said.

The senators say while they have supported bipartisan measures to provide unprecedented investments in vaccines, therapeutics and testing, it is not clear why additional funding is needed.

"Before we would consider supporting an additional $30 billion for COVID-19 relief, Congress must receive a full accounting of how the government has already spent the first $6 trillion," they wrote.

Among the things senators want to know is how much American Rescue Plan funding remains unspent, how much the government has spent on vaccines and testing, and how much of the $350 billion made available to state and local governments has been used to date for vaccines and testing.

Romney and the Republican senators also pointed to a Washington Post investigation that found "immense fraud" in the use of coronavirus funds. The report, the senators wrote, details the federal government's "shocking failure" to provide a faithful accounting of how it has spent the money.

On Tuesday, Biden announced that the Department of Justice Department will name a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud.

"We're going after the criminals who stole billions in relief money meant for small businesses and millions of Americans," the president said.

Federal authorities have prosecuted several Utahns for defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program that Congress created to provide relief to businesses amid the pandemic.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.

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