The COVID reckoning is coming

Before the end of last year, however, the Biden administration confessed that this astronomical sum was all but gone. The Covid coffers were not exactly bare. Indeed, many states were sitting on “unallocated funds” disbursed in 2020 to the consternation of House progressives. But the White House sought and could not secure a measly $15 billion to supplement vital Covid relief. So, where did all the money go?

If Republicans retake the House next year, they should dedicate themselves to a full accounting of where this money went. Much of it did not find its way to the people who needed it. This spring, the Labor Department estimated that “at least” $163 billion in “overpayments” went to both legitimate recipients of unemployment benefits and fraudsters. The Paycheck Protection Act, which provided forgivable loans to businesses adversely affected by the pandemic, was described by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz as an “invitation” to defraud the government. “What didn’t happen was even minimal checks to make sure that the money was getting to the right people at the right time,” he said. That program has disbursed roughly $800 billion, about half of which has been forgiven.

And that’s just the unintended misuse of pandemic-related relief. What about the intended squandering of this taxpayer-funded largess? The Republican Study Committee’s review of where some of these funds were supposed to go is just as enraging as the abuse of those funds: “tree equity work,” environmental justice “boot camps,” “safe smoking kits,” and syringes for using illicit narcotics, refurbishing a minor-league baseball stadium in New York, upping the prize money at Arizona horse-racing tracks, and providing public-school staff with instruction in “high-need topics” like “implicit bias” training and “restorative practices.” As a Department of Education document averred, the pandemic was a perfect time to engineer a “culture shift” in America’s schools.