PHOENIX — In a letter dated February 3 and signed by Arizona’s five Democratic congressmen, Governor Doug Ducey is asked to explain why he spent approximately $400 million, 20% of the CARES Act funds he controls, on state agency budgets. This is being questioned as Gov. Ducey did not use that money on programs aimed at helping the people most affected by the pandemic.
“What the governor is doing is taking the money going to individual business owners [that] could be going to people to help pay the rent. [It] would be going to help people get into homeless shelters, it could be used for many other things, testing and he's using it to basically backfill his budget,” said Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).
Governor Ducey was given wide latitude in spending nearly $1.9 billion of the approximately $4 billion Arizona received in federal pandemic aid.
Most of the money went to supporting COVID-19 testing and staffing needs as well as to schools and rental assistance. But eleven state agencies were also given money.
In return, those agencies gave back $300 million to the state's general fund. “That's not the intention of it. There's a rainy day fund, a billion-dollar rainy day fund the governor should be using,” said Congressman Gallego. “It could cause the Treasury to ask for the money back [and] that could be catastrophic for Arizona.”
The governor doesn’t think that will happen.
“These dollars were all used for COVID-related expenses, following Treasury guidance," the governor's spokesman C.J. Karamargin said.
Gallego and the other members who signed the letter want the governor to show more transparency regarding how the money is being spent.
They also want him to direct the funds toward the people who need them the most and not use them to ensure a budget surplus and the promotion of tax cuts.