Broward officials defend $140M COVID relief hotel

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Some Republicans found it egregious that $140 million of federal government aid was used for a 29-story luxury hotel.

The funds for the 800-room hotel at the county-owned Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center come from the $350 billion American Rescue Plan, also known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package.

“It’s hard to imagine how a four-star hotel is helping fund the pain of COVID,” recently said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who wanted to set more limits on how the plan’s money was spent.

Broward County commissioners found a way to make the COVID relief hotel legal and responded to criticism with a statement on Friday. Monica Cepero, the county’s administrator and not an elected official, released the county’s defense.

Cepero said the hotel project “clearly” meets this guidance: A recipient of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act may provide aid for “a planned expansion or upgrade of tourism, travel and hospitality facilities delayed due to the pandemic.”

The hotel was among the projects the Associated Press identified as “spending disasters” because of “permissive” Treasury Department rules.

Liz Bourgeois, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, told The Associated Press the funds are meant to help local governments to “recover from financial distress” and “achieve their own strategies for restoring jobs.”

Local10.com archives

Read the Wednesday story: Pandemic relief money spent on hotel, ballpark, ski slopes

Watch the Thursday report

Broward County officials allocated about $140 million in COVID-relief funds to build a new Convention Center hotel.

About the Author:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.