Amata provides info on oversight of CARES Act, other relief funds
Washington, D.C. — On Thursday Congresswoman Aumua Amata provided an update on federal oversight of the CARES Act and other economic relief funds. This information includes the process, federal requirements for these funds, and contact information to report any waste, fraud or abuse of such funding.
“Congress passed several economic relief and health care bills as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the major CARES Act is the largest of these,” said Congresswoman Amata. “These provisions are to provide health services, prepare for any outbreak, sustain the local economy, and mitigate unexpected COVID expenses. These measures also have thorough inspection and oversight provisions, like other federal appropriations.”
BACKGROUND ON OVERSIGHT OF CARES ACT FUNDS
The CARES Act established the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for States and Territories Governments of which approximately $39 million in direct assistance went to ASG for COVID related expenses.
Treasury has made payments from the fund to States and eligible units of local government; the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories (the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands); and Tribal governments (collectively “governments”).
The CARES Act requires that the payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund only be used to cover expenses that—
1. are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);
2. were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or territory government; and
3. were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020 and ends on December 30, 2020.
SUMMARY OF CARES ACT AND OVERSIGHT OF FEDERAL FUNDS TO THE STATE AND TERRITORIES
The Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted on March 27, 2020 (P.L. 116-136). The CARES Act provides over $2 trillion in relief to individuals; businesses; state, local, and tribal government; federal agencies; and industry sectors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to these relief programs, Congress included a variety of provisions to facilitate transparency and oversight in the implementation of the CARES Act. And Audits of state local government spending will be happening in the coming months according to Treasury officials. The Treasury Inspector General will also have oversight of spending on programs under its jurisdiction as will the Inspector Generals of the USDOL, Interior and SBA for certain funds provided to ASG.
When Congress enacts massive financial relief legislation, one inevitable result is fraud, waste and abuse. Section 4108 of the CARES Act establishes a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) in the Department of Treasury.
The scope of the Special Inspector General’s duty is not just the Treasury Department’s conduct but extends to proper use and grant of funds to beneficiaries.
In other words, the Special Inspector General will have authority to investigate and refer prosecutions to DOJ focused on fraudulent use of any CARES Act funds, including those to state, local, tribal and territorial governments.
ADDITIONAL CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT AND CONTACTS TO REPORT WASTE, FRAUD AND ABUSE
As billions of dollars are distributed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an arm of Congress, is urging private citizens, government workers, contractors, and others to report allegations of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement to FraudNet. FraudNet is the congressional watchdog agency’s hotline that processes allegations submitted via the Internet, e-mail, or phone about federal agencies and federally funded programs.
“The public can play a critical role in helping to identify improper activities or weaknesses in programs that warrant scrutiny. And FraudNet can play an important role in alerting GAO, potentially early on, to questionable uses of CARES Act funds,” said Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO. “The Act has set aside over two trillion dollars to address the public health emergency and related economic impacts. Experience tells us that the risk of fraud and abuse grows when large sums are spent quickly, eligibility requirements are being established or changed, and new programs created.” Dodaro added.
The CARES Act requires GAO to issue a report to Congress on its oversight of CARES Act spending 90 days after enactment; issue bi-monthly reports through the first year; and conduct oversight of the programs covered by the CARES Act, Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
PUBLIC REPORTING OF WASTE, FRAUD, AND ABUSE
To report allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse, the public can visit the FraudNet website at http://www.gao.gov/fraudnet. Although the website is the preferred reporting method, allegations can also be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-800-424-5454 (an automated phone answering system).
Allegations may be provided anonymously, and GAO treats all inquiries confidentially and internet information is transmitted over a secure connection.
Tipsters are asked to provide as much detail as possible about their allegations. GAO may refer allegations for follow-up to its own investigative unit, appropriate inspector general offices, or to the Department of Justice.
OTHER CONTACTS TO REPORT WASTE, FRAUD AND ABUSE
Department of Treasury https://home.treasury.gov/services/report-fraud-waste-and-abuse/inspectors-general for programs related to direct government aid and stimulus check payments; Department of Labor https://www.oig.dol.gov/ related to unemployment insurance programs; Health and Human Services https://oig.hhs.gov/ regarding mismanagement of health programs and grants; and Small Business Administration https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/oversight-advocacy/office-inspector-general related to PPP and EIDL programs.