House Republicans want comptroller to review Nashville’s COVID relief spending

Cameron Sexton
Posted at 12:09 PM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 19:58:15-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After Gov. Bill Lee recently denied Nashville Mayor John Cooper's request for more federal COVID-19 funding, House Speaker Cameron Sexton and GOP leadership want a review of how the city has spent its coronavirus relief funds.

Sexton sent a letter to Justin Wilson, Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, asking him to “conduct a thorough review of Nashville under the CRF (Coronavirus Relief Fund).” The Crossville Republican also said he and other GOP leaders agree with Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to decline additional funds for Metro.

“Despite this significant federal funding allocation, recent reports suggest Nashville is one of the slowest recovering municipalities in the entire nation. It is evident that part of the city’s current economic struggles are the result of policies put in place by local officials, which have slowed recovery efforts. What is still unclear is whether the manner in which available CRF funding has further contributed to Nashville’s sluggish economic recovery process,” Sexton wrote on Thursday.

Sexton said the review would "ensure all CRF proceeds are used in accordance with Federal guidelines."

Click here to read Sexton’s letter in full.

Gov. Lee recently criticized Nashville's handling of Coronavirus Relief money in a public letter. The public rebuke came after Mayor John Cooper requested the state share more of the federal COVID-19 aid money it received under the CARES Act.

After Mayor Cooper requested $82 million from Tennessee's CRF, Lee responded by saying Nashville has already benefited from $2.5 billion in coronavirus relief money, which he said comes to $3,745 per Davidson County resident – more than any other county.

However, NewsChannel 5 Investigates found that an examination of some the Governor's numbers reveals he made some misleading claims about how much aid has actually benefited Davidson County.

In fact, some of that money the governor claimed benefited Nashville actually went to hospitals in other counties and even other states.

For example, $8.2 million went to Lovelace Health System in New Mexico, $9 million went to two hospitals in Texas and $5.4 million was paid to Northcrest Medical Center in Springfield, Tennessee, but all were credited to Davidson County because they are owned by Nashville-based Corporations.

Mayor Cooper responded to the letter in an interview with NewsChannel 5 Investigates last week, saying "We have helped the state so much by the city's controlled response.”

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Are you frustrated the Governor sent a letter saying Nashville's restrictions seem out of balance?"

"Well I don't agree with that because I can show the progress we've made," Cooper said.

Cooper said if Nashville had not gotten the coronavirus with under control with restrictions on certain businesses and a mask mandate, it would impact the state's overall budget.

Read More:

Governor Lee's letter to Mayor Cooper about coronavirus relief has misleading claims

Gov. Lee rejects Metro Mayor Cooper's request for $82.6M additional coronavirus relief funding

Gov. Lee says it's time to lift Metro COVID-19 restrictions; 'We need Nashville to open up'