As the Obama years open themselves up to examination, even if ever so slightly, disturbing revelations about slush funds are coming to light. One Obama slush fund has been operating since 2010 and has been using taxpayer dollars to fund frivolous expenses.
The multi-billion dollar program has seen millions of dollars wasted or used fraudulently on “unnecessary” expenses. It’s the Hardest Hit Fund, and instead of supporting home owners, it’s funding everything from parties to employee bonuses with millions of dollars, basically embezzling taxpayer dollars, according to an article by the Judicial Watch.
The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program has released a 93-page report identifying millions of dollars that are being misused by the Hardest Hit Fund.
In 2010, the Hardest Hit Fund, or TARP, was created by the Obama administration as a way to help homeowners who were hit by the housing crisis that started in 2007. The fund was designed to go to bat for homeowners by helping with mortgage payments or intervening with banks in the event of foreclosure.
The initial $1.5 billion given to the fund, meant to assist homeowners in the five states hit hardest by declining home prices, bloated under Obama’s presidency to $9.5 billion.
According to the inspector general, “Taxpayers are paying more for this program than is necessary, and losing Federal dollars to waste, because Treasury is not following its own contract to limit TARP spending to only expenses necessary to modify loans or demolish blighted houses.”
Instead, some of the fund has been used for non-related expenses, according to the inspector general. “Treasury has also allowed state agencies to charge TARP for expenses not included in the Permitted Expenses, such as food and beverages, which are not necessary to modify loans or demolish blighted houses,” the report stated.
A 2016 audit revealed $8.1 million dollars in waste in Nevada’s use of the Hardest Hit Fund. It was revealed that the money was used to pay for staff lunches, gifts, parties, a new car for a supervisor of the program, employee outings, and even severance pay for a departing official. Even worse, the Treasury Department has no intention of recovering the wasted $8.1 million.
It was this 2016 audit that prompted a US senator to request a probe into the fund, which discovered the millions of dollars being misused within the program.
Even without the fraud, the fund was failing to wield its resources effectively and perform as was intended, according to an article in The Guardian. Homeowners across a number of states have reported the program’s failure to assist with payments and go to bat for them against banks seeking foreclosure.
Christy Romero, special inspector general for TARP, said in 2014, “We see states continuing to drop and drop how many homeowners they will help. It’s been very unfortunate for homeowners that have been struggling these last few years. Some people lost their homes because of that.”
As Trump officials start to dig into the federally funded programs created under former President Obama, many instances of fiscal irregularities are coming to light. Should President Trump order investigations into all financial irregularities discovered under the Obama administration?
Florida was one of the worst offenders. According to reports in 2013, it was only providing aid to 17% of applicants to the program, the lowest of any state participating in the effort. According to Romero, “Florida Hardest-Hit is reaching far fewer homeowners than what was expected.”
Admittedly, the program may have helped a number of homeowners and not all of the money has been wasted, but the fact that millions of taxpayer dollars were spent on frivolous expenses, like parties, is unacceptable.