The statement is extremely misleading.
When you say something like “Group of people X paid amount Y to achieve goal Z”, that implies the following things:
Achieving goal Z was the primary purpose of spending that money.
All of the money Y went towards achieving that goal Z.
These implications are false in the current case. What is actually true is:
“We” (the US government) did spend $118K in fiscal year 2020 to fund a research grant.
One of the goals of the grant was to obtain new knowledge about “latch-mediated spring actuation”, a class of mechanical systems seen in nature that contains finger snapping as one example.
The sole scientific publication resulting from the grant so far did study the mechanics of finger snapping, and did study the question of whether metal fingers could be snapped, and did indirectly refer to the Marvel movies’ Thanos character snapping his fingers. And presumably the researchers did hire someone (whether a “dude” or not, I can’t say) to help perform experiments.
The implications above are false, because studying whether Thanos can snap his fingers was obviously not the stated goal of the researchers — the insight that Thanos would find it more difficult than a human to snap his fingers is only one (completely insignificant) byproduct of the work, which Paul conveniently focuses his attention on.
(In fairness to Mr Paul, one of the researchers seems to have played a part in his university issuing a press release hyping this completely insignificant connection to Marvel movies, as discussed in another answer. So arguably the researchers can be seen as guilty of a similar kind of dishonesty as the senator, and in their unnecessary focus on PR probably exposed themselves to the kind of criticism he is leveling at them.)
Moreover, even if the improved understanding of finger snapping was really the only tangible deliverable resulting from the money spent on the grant, scientific research produces many intangible deliverables (training of future scientists, and producing knowledge that may take a few years to get published, and seeding the insights of future, potentially groundbreaking, research, etc) that are difficult to quantify, especially by politicians who seem to care more about creating an impression favorable to their agenda than about getting at the truth. For all we know, that $118K could result in another publication next year that will win the researchers a Nobel prize.