Audit finds Iowa governor spent COVID-19 funds on wages

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) was accused in an audit report of using nearly $ 450,000 in federal funding intended for COVID-19 relief to fund three months of salaries for more than 20 staff members.

A state audit of government spending released on Monday said Reynolds attempted to cover the expenses by passing them through the State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, but it’s unclear why the wages had to be paid with federal money, according to The Associated Press.

“What is not clear is why these salaries were not included in the governor’s budget set before the fiscal year and before the pandemic,” State Auditor Rob Sand said, according to the AP. “Based on this information, we conclude that the budget deficit is not the result of the pandemic. “

Sand added that he had twice requested documents to justify the spending, but was told the governor’s office was completely focused on their COVID-19 response and did not provide any evidence. In October, Sand told Reynolds that paying staff salaries without the necessary documents was unlikely to be approved by the federal government, the news service noted.

A Sand spreadsheet requested from the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management included a section titled Deficit for Fiscal Year 2020 and an amount of $ 448,448.86. A later version of the document labeled the Staff Costs section COVID-19 but listed the same amount of money, according to the AP.

“This spreadsheet that shows they changed the headers wholesale instead of saying a lack to say COVID 19 is a big deal,” Sand told the AP.

A spokesperson for Reynolds told AP the expenses were authorized to reimburse the governor’s salaries.

“During this period, the governor’s staff spent the vast majority of their time responding to the pandemic. In fact, many of Governor Reynolds’ staff were working seven days a week from the State Emergency Operations Center to provide direct support to the residents of the Iowans, ”said Alex Murphy, spokesperson for the Iowans. Reynolds, in a statement, according to the AP. “This has always been our justification for the expense. We are now working with the treasury to provide them with documentation, at their request. “

Reynolds also said that “CARES funding can be used for salaries. The allowances allowed are very clear,” the AP added.

At the end of last year, Reynolds had to return $ 21 million in COVID-19 relief money after using it to update an outdated computer system. The governor initially declared the project an eligible expense, but then ruled that it did not qualify under federal coronavirus aid, relief and economic security law, a noted the press service.

The Hill has reached out to Reynolds for comment.

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