Audits reveal U.S. school boards abusing COVID relief funds

Plexiglass dividers surround desks as students return to in-person learning at St. Anthony Catholic High School during the Covid-19 pandemic on March 24, 2021 in Long Beach, California. - The school of 445 students implemented a hybrid learning model, with approximately 60 percent of students returning to in an in-person classroom learning environment with Covid-19 safety measures including face masks, social distancing, plexiglass barriers around desks, outdoor spaces, and schedule changes. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Plexiglass dividers surround desks as students return to in-person learning at St. Anthony Catholic High School during the Covid-19 pandemic on March 24, 2021 in Long Beach, California. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

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UPDATED 2:02 PM PT – Monday, November 8, 2021

School districts around the U.S. are reportedly mishandling emergency relief funds from Congress.

According to reports on Sunday, schools across the country lacked oversight in the distribution of the funds leading to new nature centers and turf fields, instead of technology and mental health services. Congress approved just over $190 billion in aid to go to school districts in need, but many schools reportedly avoided detailing requirements.

A school board in Wisconsin stood out as a prime example of relief fund abuse. The Whitewater, Wisconsin school board voted to use 80 percent of its $2 million relief grant to revamp its sports team’s fields.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) condemned schools like Whitewater for their decision to undermine the intentional use of the funds.

“I suspect you can make a case for anything, but the purpose is clear: It’s to open safely, stay open safely and deal with learning loss,” he said regarding the relief money. “These are targeted resources needed to address the fact that a lot of children just didn’t achieve much for about a year.”

A football field, top, and baseball field under construction are lit up at Whitewater High School Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in Whitewater, Wis. A growing number of school districts in the U.S. are using federal pandemic funding on athletics projects. When school officials at Whitewater learned they would be getting $2 million in pandemic relief this year, they decided to set most of it aside to cover costs from their current budget, freeing up $1.6 million in local funding that’s being used to build new synthetic turf fields for football, baseball and softball. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

A football field, top, and baseball field under construction are lit up at Whitewater High School Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in Whitewater, Wis. A growing number of school districts in the U.S. are using federal pandemic funding on athletics projects. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

This comes after the inspector general for the Department of Education warned programs were needed to prevent such misuse or abuse of the funds. He stressed steps must be put in place “to ensure that the programs are not subject to waste, fraud and abuse.”

Meanwhile, more rounds of relief funds are still being disbursed throughout the country.

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