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Treasury probes whether Florida used Covid aid in Mass. migrant flight

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Migrants gather after being flown in from Texas on a flight funded by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at Edgartown, Massachusetts, September 15, 2022.

Vineyard Gazette | Via Reuters

Treasury’s Office of Inspector General is investigating whether Florida improperly used pandemic relief funds to fly Venezuelan migrants to the haughty resort island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent two planes last month carrying 48 migrants to the Massachusetts location, where 89% of its roughly 21,000 residents are white, as a part of an effort to “transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,” Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director, said on the time. Republican governors of Texas and Arizona have also shipped migrants to blue states in recent months. The actions have sparked outrage amongst Democrats.

Massachusetts Democratic lawmakers, led by Sen. Ed Markey, asked Treasury’s investigative arm in a Sept. 16 letter to take a look at DeSantis’ use of American Rescue Plan funds earmarked for Covid-19 emergency aid to move the migrants. They said the Florida Republican’s $12 million relocation program is funded partly by interest earned off of the help.

Treasury’s Deputy Inspector General, Richard Delmar, told the state Democratic members his office has already asked Florida for information concerning the state’s use of that cash.

“We plan to get this work underway as quickly as possible,” he said in an Oct. 7 letter.

The probe was reported earlier by the Associated Press.

Delmar said the office will review whether funds distributed as a part of the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program can generally be used for immigration and “will specifically confirm whether interest earned on SLFRF funds was utilized by Florida related to immigration activities, and if that’s the case, what conditions and limitations apply to such use.”

Markey praised Delmar’s actions in a press release released Wednesday.

“I applaud the swift response from the Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General,” he said. “For the sake of the migrants who were lured onto charter planes under false pretenses, and for the commendable Commonwealth residents who rallied together to supply support, I hope that this investigation sheds light on whether Governor DeSantis misused funds that were intended for COVID relief for Floridians.”

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