A federal government watchdog is probing whether Texas misspent federal coronavirus aid, after Gov. Greg Abbott and top state officials shifted $1 billion in relief funds to help defray the costs of their crackdown on the U.S.-Mexico border. The inquiry comes as Texas engaged in budgetary maneuvers to facilitate its campaign to arrest more migrants, known as Operation Lone Star, the Washington Post reports. State leaders rerouted public health and safety funds to their border operations, while relying on federal pandemic funds to replace some of the money.
The inspector general for the Treasury Department said officials had opened a “review” into the way Texas has handled its federal allocation broadly. The aid was supposed to help local governments pay their front-line workers, purchase protective equipment and offset other public health costs. Deputy Inspector General Richard Delmar said his agency — in cases of “unauthorized uses” — can also “direct recoupment of the money.” The new federal scrutiny highlights the steep task facing Washington officials as they struggle to keep close watch over the $6 trillion in stimulus funds Congress has approved since the start of the pandemic. That includes about $500 billion in direct fiscal aid to cities, counties and states, a tranche of funds across two programs that carries few restrictions on how it can be put to use. In some cases, the flexibility has opened the door for states to pursue a host of pet projects, including refurbishing prisons and constructing new golf courses.