HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor urged today in a press conference for the General Assembly to enact a state-level safeguard to prevent federal pandemic recovery aid funds from being misused.
“Pennsylvania did not win the lottery — these relief funds are our tax dollars,” DeFoor said. “If the money is misused, it will be nearly impossible to get it back. Even if we could get it back, it would likely only be pennies on the dollar.”
The state will be receiving a total of about $55 billion in federal COVID relief aid, according to the state’s Independent Fiscal Office. Roughly $7.3 billion in direct aid to the state and $6.2 billion to local governments will come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
DeFoor and Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill of York County called for the safeguards in order to make sure all ARPA funds that flow through state government are used only as the law allows.
“Pennsylvanians are relying on us to make sure their money is being spent to help communities recover from the economic disaster caused by COVID,” DeFoor said. “We need transparency, oversight and accountability for this massive amount of funding — upfront, not after the fact.”
In a previous report from abc27 News Governor Tom wolf said “All schools have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I commend school communities for rising to the challenge to combat the toll it has taken. This extra funding is critical to help schools meet the unique needs of educating students at this time while keeping school buildings safe when students return to the classroom.”
But not all agreed with the effort. U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) disagreed saying “We’re in 2021 now and revenue has come roaring back. So there’s no fiscal crisis, there’s just a desire to get a whole lot of free money to spend on who knows what.”
Toomey is critical of the $350 billion for state and local governments, which he says, nationwide, took in $20 billion more in 2020 than in 2019.
Democratic State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Montgomery, Philadelphia) insists the rescue plan would lift up poor neighborhoods and the middle class, who will spend the money and stimulate the economy.