WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of Texas’ Democratic congressional delegation are concerned Gov. Greg Abbott may subvert COVID=19 recovery funds to build a state border wall.

The 13-strong delegation, which includes four members of Congress from the Texas-Mexico border, have written to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The delegation points out that the $350 billion American Rescue Plan was passed with no Republican support. The monies, the delegation said, is supposed to assist local communities that have been confronted pandemic challenges, and to assist with economic and job recovery.

“The Department of Treasury has clearly outlined a variety of compelling uses for Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds, including premium pay to essential workers, assistance for small businesses, public health measures to respond to COVID-19, and investments in government services, including public facilities and infrastructure,” the letter states.

“Given the clear statutory directive to use these funds to respond to the pandemic, there is no justification for the use of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds to construct a border wall.”

The Texas Democratic delegation urges the Department of Treasury to make clear in an interim final rule that coronavirus recovery funds cannot be used for a border wall, fence, or similar installation.

“This rule should also be clear that this prohibition cannot be subverted by accounting tricks that use Recovery Funds to supplant state funds, which are then used to construct a wall,” the letter states.

The Democrats point out that Gov. Abbott has already unilaterally moved $250 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s budget for his border wall.

“While this amount is insufficient to actually construct more than a token, symbolic portion of this costly monstrosity, it certainly should not be paid for directly or indirectly with federal Recovery Funds in defiance of President Biden’s direction to cease wall construction,” the letter states.

Here is the letter in full:

June 28, 2021

The Honorable Janet Yellen

Secretary

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20220

Dear Secretary Yellen:

We write to comment on the interim final rule to implement the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund and the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund established under the American Rescue Plan Act.

With no Republican support, we approved $350 billion in the American Rescue Plan for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to assist local leaders, who confronted pandemic challenges, and to assist with economic and job recovery.

We are concerned by the prospect of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s potential misuse of these funds to continue the misguided plans of President Trump to extend a wall along the border between Texas and Mexico.

The Department of Treasury has clearly outlined a variety of compelling uses for Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds, including premium pay to essential workers, assistance for small businesses, public health measures to respond to COVID-19, and investments in government services, including public facilities and infrastructure. Given the clear statutory directive to use these funds to respond to the pandemic, there is no justification for the use of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds to construct a border wall. There never has been and never will be a constructive purpose served by Trump’s ideologically motivated, wasteful, destructive wall. We urge the Department of Treasury to make clear in the interim final rule that these Recovery Funds cannot be used for a border wall, fence, or similar installation.

This rule should also be clear that this prohibition cannot be subverted by accounting tricks that use Recovery Funds to supplant state funds, which are then used to construct a wall. Governor Abbott has already unilaterally directed a wasteful $250 million general revenue transfer from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for his wall. While this amount is insufficient to actually construct more than a token, symbolic portion of this costly monstrosity, it certainly should not be paid for directly or indirectly with federal Recovery Funds in defiance of President Biden’s direction to cease wall construction.

Following the Trump Administration’s effort to wrongfully divert $3.6 billion from essential military installations to pay for his border wall, any new Abbott diversion would both ignore federal policy and deny Texans the infusion of federal resources needed to respond to the pandemic and rebuild a stronger more equitable economy. Any such Abbott diversion would be particularly egregious since Texas actually has a state revenue surplus. With regard to any claim that Texas may make of revenue loss, please not that the Texas Comptroller has recently estimate that state revenue increased $1.67 billion for the fiscal year and $3.12 billion for the 2022-23 biennium.

As you consider the interim final rule, we urge the Department of Treasure to act clearly on behalf of all Texans to ensure Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds are devoted to responding to the pandemic and its economic fallout, while laying the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery.

Sincerely,

Lloyd Doggett, Member of Congress

Joaquin Castro, Member of Congress

Veronica Escobar, Member of Congress

Vicente Gonzalez, Member of Congress

Filemon Vela, Member of Congress

Al Green, Member of Congress

Mac Veasey, Member of Congress

Eddie Bernice Johnson, Member of Congress

Henry Cuellar, Member of Congress

Colin Allred, Member of Congress

Lizzie Fletcher, Member of Congress

Sylvia R. Garcia, Member of Congress

Sheila Jackson Lee, Member of Congress

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows a gate in the federal border wall in Hidalgo, Texas. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)


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