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Hundreds of millions in COVID-19 relief dollars diverted to mitigate Biden border crisis

Funds steered toward care, shelter, infrastructure, transportation, and support services for ongoing influx of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) and volunteers assisting them. 

Published: March 24, 2022 3:21pm

Updated: March 27, 2022 12:11am

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s.

This week's Golden Horseshoe is awarded to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for diverting hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID relief funds to care for unaccompanied alien children (UAC) crossing the southern border.

As the White House and Democrats were pushing this week for more COVID spending, Just The News found numerous examples from the government spending site USAspending.gov of COVID funding being steered toward mitigating the effects of the Biden administration's border crisis.

HHS outlayed $129.2 million in COVID-19 relief funds, for example, under a $635.6 million contract with San Antonio-based Family Endeavors, Inc. to care for unaccompanied children.

"The purpose of this order is to award emergency intake site and wrap around care services in support of the [Office of Refugee Resettlement] unaccompanied children's program" at a facility in Pecos, Texas, according to the contract description.

HHS also obligated $57.8 million in COVID relief funds under a $423.2 million cooperative agreement with Austin-based Southwest Key Programs, Inc. to provide shelter for unaccompanied children.

Just the News also found that $40 million in COVID funds were used to transport the UACs as part of a $103.3 million contract awarded to Ashburn, Va.-based MVM to "coordinate and make travel arrangements for unaccompanied children … while in the custody of HHS." That contract can potentially reach $198.3 million.

Other examples of pandemic relief dollars diverted to cope with the flood of illegal immigrants include:

  • $5.5 million in COVID funds obligated under a $19.4 million contract to support Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) efforts to cope with an influx of unaccompanied children;
  • $21K in COVID funds outlayed under a $412K purchase order for rooms at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Marriott "in support of the ORR volunteer services required to in process the volunteers that will be assisting ORR with the unaccompanied children";
  • $3 million in COVID funds under a $33.7 million contract for "facility infrastructure and support services" for unaccompanied children;
  • $25.5 million in COVID funds obligated for the "emergency mobilization for unaccompanied alien children youth care service";
  • $1.8 million in COVID funds obligated under a $6.6 million contract for "residential long-term foster care services" for UACs.

It appears the Biden administration does not expect the border crisis or the costs of caring for UACs to abate soon, as another $22.7 million in COVID funds is obligated under a $44.9 million contract running through March 2025 to provide shelter and "child welfare-related services" to UACs in the Office of Refugee Resettlement's custody.

A spokesman for HHS provided this comment:

"HHS has a legal obligation to care for all children referred to us by the Department of Homeland Security. It should come as no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted sites housing Unaccompanied Children across the country. Ensuring the health and safety of children in our care has become more expensive because of the need for unprecedented pandemic-related precautions like testing, quarantining, and social distancing. We're committed to ensuring HHS has the funds it needs now to safely and humanely care for children and will continue to work with Congress to invest in long-needed programmatic reforms to avoid relying on transferring funds when public health needs emerge."  

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