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Ernst on the December 2021 Squeal Award: Washington’s Holiday Grift List

by U. S. Senator Joni Ernst

There will likely be fewer gifts under many Christmas trees this year because a record number of Americans aren’t buying presents as a result of rising prices and the shrinking value of the dollar. But these economic hardships haven’t stopped binge buying bureaucrats from squandering the tax dollars of struggling Americans on their own wish lists.

If folks can’t afford to go shopping, why not spend their money encouraging them to do so anyway? That’s actually what happened in New Jersey, where thousands of tote bags promoting holiday shopping were purchased with a COVID-19 stimulus grant. Children of local politicians were paid to act as “ambassadors” and hand out the totes. Months later, the swag bags were discovered in a warehouse…in unopened boxes.

In Utah, those dreaming of a white Christmas had their wish come true with a flurry of COVID-19 cash. Nearly a half-a-million dollars of taxpayers’ money was blown to literally make snow and create an outdoor winter wonderland. The spending blizzard didn’t end there either as local commissioners directed dollars to family-owned enterprises. An audit concluded “The large influx of federal pandemic relief money” and “a perceived disregard for federal grant requirements resulted in these expenditures not complying with federal program requirements.” In the end, it was the struggling small business owners left out in the cold by being passed over for the federal financial relief who really got snowed!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Connecticut, too, thanks to holiday lights and decorations also paid for with COVID-19 funds, plus a 20 person marching bandgifts for bureaucrats, and pay outs to companies owned by local politicians. The FBI has already made a number of arrests related to these expenditures and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (OIG) is also investigating.

I have a message for those even thinking of taking advantage of the financial support provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for personal grift and graft: “You better watch out! I’m telling you why. Your days of playing Santa with taxpayer dollars are over, so don’t even try!”

There are too many struggling families and small business owners who are desperately trying to survive while untold amounts are being squandered because of inadequate guidance and oversight.

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