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Feds looking into Florida's spending on migrant flights

The money set aside for the state's migrant relocation program came from interest earned on federal COVID relief funds.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The U.S. Treasury Department is looking into whether the state improperly used COVID relief-related funds to facilitate Gov. Ron DeSantis' migrant flights to Massachusetts.

In a letter addressed to members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation and obtained by 10 Tampa Bay, U.S. Deputy Inspector General Richard Delmar says the department plans on probing the state as part of ongoing "audit work" into compliance with funds obtained or derived from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF).

Delmar says the department has already sought information from Florida about the use of that fund and plan to "get this work underway as quickly as possible."

"We will review the allowability of use of SLFRF funds related to immigration generally, and will specifically confirm whether interest earned on SLFRF funds was utilized by Florida related to immigration activities, and if so, what conditions and limitations apply to such use," Delmar wrote.

The letter comes after a group of Massachusetts lawmakers, including Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey requested the Treasury Office of Inspector General investigates whether the state of Florida improperly used money obtained from the fund.

Last month, the state confirmed they sent two planes of nearly 50 migrants on flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.

Records show Florida paid $615,000 to an aviation company as part of what the DeSantis administration calls a state "relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations."

The money was earmarked in that state's latest budget which included $12 million to establish a program within the Department of Transportation to "facilitate the transport" of undocumented persons out of Florida. The money came from interest earned on federal COVID-relief funding. 

The governor's office responding in a statement, “Weeks ago, the Office of Policy and Budget  spoke with the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General about using interest gained from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program to transport illegal immigrants voluntarily to sanctuary jurisdictions," says Communications Director Taryn Fenske, adding the legislature-approved provisions do not apply to the program and that the use of interest is permissible under the SLFRF Final Rule. 

"Reviews by Treasury are typical and, as stated by the OIG, are ‘part of its oversight responsibilities,’” Fenske added. 


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