FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 18, 2020
Congress Must Improve Disclosure in COVID-19 Relief Programs
Lawmakers must dramatically step up the quality and quantity of data that the executive branch releases on programs designed to provide relief from the economic downturn stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a letter from 26 labor, community, consumer, and other organizations.
The full letter can be found here.
Over 2 million people have tested positive for Coronavirus and over 115,000 have died. Unemployment levels reached 43 million people and tens of millions of families are struggling to pay their bills. The majority of the federal Coronavirus relief has been directed to businesses with few requirements that this taxpayer assistance benefits workers and communities.
“It is only with more detailed and timely data disclosures that Congress can ensure Coronavirus expenditures and benefits are being delivered to the public as Congress intended; can assess the effectiveness of these efforts and make needed adjustments; and can stop taxpayer funds from being lost to waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or improperly diverted to reward shareholders, investors, or executives,” the letter concludes.
The urgency of congressional action was highlighted by the Treasury Department’s recent refusal to disclose the recipients of $375 billion in small business assistance under the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program. Further the complexity of the financial support coming from several Federal Reserve credit facility programs requires much more granular and comprehensive disclosure to assess which firms receive taxpayer benefits and whether these firms are maintaining their payrolls and protecting their workers from Coronavirus exposure.
“The statutory provisions do not currently provide sufficient specificity to lay out the scale, scope, and complexity of the federal measures being taken to provide economic and public health relief from the Coronavirus crisis,” the letter stated. “Vigorous independent oversight, both from Congress and Inspectors General, is essential to monitor not only the effectiveness of the federal expenditures but also that the taxpayer monies dedicated to Coronavirus relief are not lost to waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, self-dealing, or diverted to benefit special interests and corporate profits instead of the people, employers, and communities in need.”
The groups sent a separate letter to the Office of Management and Budget outlining similar concerns and taking aim at a recent decision by OMB to limit the amount of data agencies collect about their pandemic relief efforts.
“Despite the clear necessity for this data, the Office of Management and Budget has recently released regulatory guidance on CARES Act reporting that defies the law by ignoring a number of direct statutory reporting requirements … Additionally, OMB’s guidance recommends delaying the implementation of codes to identify Coronavirus expenditures until July, meaning that statutorily mandated monthly award data disclosure would not be available until August — four full months after Congress passed the CARES Act.”
The letter to OMB can be found here.
The letters were signed by Accountable.US, Action Center on Race and the Economy, AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Responsive Politics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Consumer Action, Empire Justice Center, Good Jobs First, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Main Street Alliance, NAACP, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Community Stabilization Trust, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients), National Employment Law Project, National Fair Housing Alliance, People’s Action, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Project On Government Oversight (POGO), Public Citizen, Take on Wall Street, U.S. PIRG, and Woodstock Institute.