AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey pauses as he speaks about the latest coronavirus data at a news conference Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Phoenix.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool

Five Arizona Congressmembers are questioning how the governor is allocating $1.9 billion in federal money designed to provide relief during the pandemic.

Arizona’s Democratic lawmakers are asking Gov. Doug Ducey for more transparency on how he has allocated relief funds for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s five Congressional House Democrats sent Ducey a letter on Thursday asking why nearly $400 million in COVID-19 relief funds was used to offset operational costs at 11 state agencies instead of funding relief programs related to the pandemic.

The letter was signed by Rep. Ruben Gallego, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Rep. Tom O’Halleran, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, and Rep. Greg Stanton.

Ducey has oversight of $1.9 billion in federal money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which was given to states to address the impacts of the pandemic.

Congress prevented states from using federal coronavirus relief money to replace lost revenue from the pandemic, but the governor’s office used nearly $400 million of that money to pay for state operations, such as salaries, according to The Arizona Capitol Times.

In their letter to Ducey on Thursday, Arizona’s Congressional representatives said the use of the funds was “in direct conflict with Congressional intent” and went against the needs of Arizonans suffering amid the pandemic.

As of Friday, nearly 14,000 Arizonans have died from COVID-19, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Citing recent White House data, the House representatives said Arizona was the No. 1 state in the country for the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per day.

“Why is Governor Ducey refusing to actually spend COVID-19 federal relief dollars on Arizonans in crisis, like Congress intended?” Gallego wrote in a statement on Twitter Thursday. “We want answers.”

A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office told the Capitol Times last year that using the federal coronavirus relief money to pay for expenses meant the state wouldn’t have to cut spending from key programs, such as education and public safety.

But a new budget proposal from Ducey would cut up to $600 million in income tax over the next three years, meaning less money for schools and for essential city services like police and fire.

Ducey has also taken criticism this year for not using the state’s rainy day fund, which currently sits at nearly $1 billion and is meant to be used during times of slow economic growth, to do more to assist residents and small businesses during the pandemic.

Arizona House representatives called attention to Ducey’s tax cuts and the rainy day fund in their letter Thursday.

“Concerningly, your administration has cited the state’s surplus, driven by your questionable use of federal relief funds, as justification to leave untouched a $1 billion “rainy day fund” and to pursue … revenue cuts that will further harm Arizona’s ability to respond to and recover from this pandemic. 

Kirkpatrick said she was joining her colleagues to demand answers and transparency from the governor about why he wasn’t using the funds to fight the clear and present health crisis.

Grijalva said the lawmakers wanted answers from Ducey as Arizona families and workers face evictions and can’t pay their bills, while numerous small businesses close.

“We need to make sure funds are spent as Congress intended: To provide relief to those who need it the most.”