Our latest story, which published this morning in partnership with The Frontier, digs into an $8 million program Gov. Kevin Stitt created in 2020 with federal COVID-19 relief funds. The Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program gave low-income families grants of $1,500 to buy education-related items.

But when reporters Reese Gorman, Clifton Adcock and myself started looking through the purchases, we found many we didn’t think were educational. And we wanted to give readers a sense of whether those purchases amounted to a lot, or a little.

Ultimately, we decided to analyze all purchases of at least $100 and tried to be as lenient as possible on what we considered educational. For instance, there were quite a few gaming computers and Beats headphones, but we decided they could be used for virtual classes. Same with tables and desks. Even cleaning supplies, we figured, were a necessary part of pandemic schooling.

Still, we calculated nearly $500,000 in spending on items like TVs, smartwatches, patio furniture, home appliances, security cameras, and exercise equipment.

Those purchases will certainly grab attention. But ultimately, we found the Stitt administration had an opportunity to set up guardrails to prevent extraneous purchases and chose not to. I’d love if you gave our story a read and let me know your reaction via email or DM.

— Jennifer Palmer

Oklahoma gave a Florida company a no-bid contract to distribute $18 million in pandemic relief money as a test-run for school vouchers

With few guardrails to prevent fraud, some families bought gaming consoles, Christmas trees and TVs. Read the story.

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