Governor Kevin Stitt played fast and loose with federal COVID relief funds. He tried to convert them to vouchers, which was not their purpose. Although the federal government was slipshod in handing out Payroll Protection Program (PPP) billions, it paid attention to misuse of state relief funds.

U.S. Department of Education auditors recommended clawing back more than $650,000 in misspent federal coronavirus relief funds from Gov. Kevin Stitt and reviewing an additional $5.5 million in purchases, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.

The questioned spending came from Stitt’s Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program, which gave $1,500 grants to low-income families for educational purchases like computers and school supplies during the pandemic.

Auditors pinpointed questionable expenditures like arcade games, Christmas trees, smart watches, sofas, televisions and refrigerators totaling $652,720. The extraneous items made up more than 10% of all purchases. The $5.5 million is the total of purchases the auditors did not analyze and could contain unauthorized items.

The tally of noneducational items families purchased with program funds was higher than previously reported in a joint investigation The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch published in May.

The auditors also found poor record keeping for another relief program managed by ClassWallet called Stay in School. The program distributed tuition grants for up to $6,500 to students already attending private schools during the pandemic.

Auditors also found Oklahoma failed to follow federal guidelines for four of Stitt’s five educational relief programs, the report shows.

State officials gave the Florida-based company ClassWallet a no-bid contract to administer the Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program and distribute grants to families.

Oklahoma could not provide supporting documentation that students who received grants were actually enrolled and registered at private schools, according to the audit.

Keep reading for more details.