Government funds spent on steak, seafood, employee parties

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Steak, seafood dinners, mock cocktails and parties. Those are just some of the purchases that a new congressional report says a Raleigh agency bought with government funding.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) released its quarterly report to congress on Thursday. The report looks at how money earmarked to help unemployed Americans facing foreclosure is being spent. Click here to view the full report.

North Carolina is one of 19 states receiving money for what is known as the Hardest Hit Fund. That money is distributed through the Raleigh-based North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. According to the audit, that agency spent $107,821 on "unnecessary expenses." The expenses include:

  • $18,091 - Employee cash bonuses
  • $14,124 - Employee breakfasts, lunches and dinners
  • $8,880 - Gym memberships
  • $8,219 - Parties, picnics, celebrations, and outings including a Valentine's Day party with decor, steak and seafood dinners
  • $2,830 - Food and decorations for four catered barbecues
  • $770 - Gratuity
  • $400 - Virgin cocktails
  • $200 mini cupcakes

Connie Helmlinger, manager of public relations and marketing for the Housing Finance Agency, said in a statement, "SIGTARP audits the U.S. Treasury's administration of the Hardest Hit Fund. Over a 6-year period, Treasury conducted its own audits of our Agency's expenses and did not raise these concerns. We disagree with SIGTARP's characterization of the expenses, which were administrative funds, never intended for homeowners, and represent .01% of the total funding."

Helmlinger also said the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency chose to reimburse a portion of the questioned expenses in 2017.

According to the new report, the agency has provided a total of $463.9 million to 25,690 homeowners.

The agency expects to have the remaining funding available for the program committed by the end of 2018 and is encouraging anyone who may qualify to apply.

You can find more information about available programs on the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency website.
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