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Watchdog warns of risks of billions in stimulus money heading to Tennessee

Jason Mumpower interview.jpeg
Jason Mumpower.jpeg
Posted at 8:11 AM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 20:10:09-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The state official in charge of keeping an eye on how your money is spent is sounding the alarm about potential trouble ahead with a flood of stimulus money heading to Tennessee.

It comes as an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation examines how money meant for COVID relief has already been spent.

"It's just a ton of money -- so much money that the legislature this past session had to change the law to allow banks more time to be able to deposit the money," said Comptroller Jason Mumpower, who oversees the teams of auditors who track state and local government spending.

"I mean there's so much money, it's too much for the banks."

Estimates have varied over how much Tennessee will receive under the American Rescue Plan.

Tennessee, by one estimate, is scheduled to get more than $3.7 billion in state aid in the next round of stimulus funding. Local governments are set to get $2.5 billion -- for a total of $6.2 billion.

What keeps Mumpower up at night?

"It is that some community accidentally spends money in a way that is against the rules and then has to use local money to return it with," the comptroller told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

"We are trying to help make sure that communities don't purposely get in trouble, but I worry about those communities that accidentally get in trouble."

Mumpower's office is working with local governments to make sure that they closely follow the guidelines for use of the money and that they keep it separate from other tax dollars.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Do you worry about fraud?"

"I don't worry about fraud because I know fraud's going to occur," Mumpower responded.

"But what I want to do is make sure that we are there in the audit process to do our best to find the fraud… to show people that, if they steal money in Tennessee, somebody is going to be looking over your shoulder, somebody is going to be looking for accountability."