By Paul DeMarco
Alabama lawmakers have completed their special session to appropriate the remaining $1 billion of federal Covid dollars. The monies will be used to fund different projects for the state – including $400 million for water and sewer projects, $339 million for healthcare costs, $260 million for the continued expansion of rural broadband in the state and finally $55 million for community needs such as food banks, senior citizens programs and housing assistance. The legislature had already spent a billion in 2021and 2022 for the first appropriations from the American Rescue Plan Act
Governor Kay Ivey’s administration will be responsible for disbursing those funds to the designated recipients. This is a lot of money that will be distributed across Alabama and there should be plenty of both front and back end auditing of these dollars to ensure they are appropriately spent. We have seen plenty of government Covid dollars fraudulently spent during the pandemic around the Nation.
The United States Congress loosened the restrictions on how the monies could be spent by the states, thus, there is even more reason to watch how the grants are awarded. Through the years there have been plenty of prosecutions in Alabama for misuse of government funds. The list is long and dubious of elected and appointed officials who have used government funds for their personal gain. There has also been fraud in the private sector where money has been inappropriately applied for and received.
There will be a lot of opportunities for those with ill intent to take advantage of the millions of dollars being distributed throughout the state. And with over $2 billion having been spent in the past three years in our state, we cannot just rely on prosecutors and law enforcement to watch for any corruption.
Alabama citizens need to also keep a watchful eye on how their taxpayer money is being spent in the community.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives and can be found on Twitter on @Paul_DeMarco