U.S. Senator Joe Manchin has accused West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice of using federal COVID-19 aid as a political slush fund.
West Virginia received $1.25 billion in COVID relief.
Manchin said the original intent was for 45 percent of the money to go to local and county government and 55 percent to stay with the state. He said that means $560 million should be in the hands of counties and municipalities now.
“He’s in an election year, and he’s using this as a political slush fund. You tell me why he’s only — and this is coming from the auditor’s office — there’s only been $44 million that’s gone to cities and counties.”
Manchin said he’s working with Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, to take the power out of the hands of governors for distributing COVID aid to communities and counties.
Justice denied the accusations and even accused Manchin of running his opponent’s campaign for governor.
“He’s playing games with this thing. And it can’t be. You can play all the games you want to build a highway with your $690 million as you can use any way you want. You want to backfill, do anything you want to, Governor Justice. But not with the people’s money that should be going to the counties and municipalities,” Manchin said.
Manchin is pushing for aid to be freed for rural hospitals and rural broadband access in the new aid package. But he wants to have open debate.
“If they’re not willing to make these adjustments and Mitch McConnell shuts the whole process down as either vote on this or nothing, then I will fight everything I can to prevent voting until we get these adjustments made,” Manchin said.