Report: Abbott used $1 billion in COVID relief for border

Coronavirus

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas on June 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

(NewsNation) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been accused of fraud by reallocating COVID-19 funds to help bolster the state’s border policies.

A report released by The Nation Friday says Abbott used upward to $1 billion from COVID-19 relief funds for the Texas National Guards’ border security mission, Operation Lone Star (OLS) — which has been responsible for the controversial busing of more than 10,000 migrants out of the state.

According to the magazine, the State of Texas received $25 billion through the CARES Act and the $40 billion from American Rescue Plan for COVID-19 relief back in 2020.

While those programs specifically prohibit its use for pension programs, a budget analyst for Every Texan, Eva DeLuna Castro, told The Nation Abbott redistributed the state agencies’ COVID-19 relief to pay for OLS. Abbott wrote to agencies in a letter that his office had approved the transfer of their revenues to the governor’s disaster fund.

The Nation managed to obtain one of the letters:

“Dear Agency Heads: We received your letter dated April 28, 2022 requesting to transfer (your) General Revenue funds … to the Programs within the Officer of the Governor. … These transfers are meant to support the deployment of the National Guard with $465.3 million and border operations in other state agencies with $30 million.” 

The letter, which has signatures from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan, among others, did not mention the transfer of COVID-19 funds and stated that “the agencies’ earlier appropriations have been fully funded with other sources.”

The Nation also reports Abbott argued COVID-19 relief funds were needed by “state troopers at the Department of Public Safety and game wardens at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who were drawn to the frontlines of numerous response efforts”

Additionally, DeLuna Castro told The Nation that with OLS, Abbott “simply said the border was ‘a disaster’ and got the agencies to agree to swap their general revenues with CARES dollars” and, through her analysis, a “small amount” of border security activities could likely be linked to COVID-19 funds — not close to what’s been asked and given.

Abbotts’ office has yet to respond to the report.

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