Swift and Sustained Action Needed to Improve Public Health and Federal Economic Relief Efforts Against COVID-19
WASHINGTON, DC (March 31, 2021) – As the country enters its second year of the pandemic, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) is making 28 new recommendations. GAO is calling for immediate action on these, as well as 38 of the 44 previous recommendations that have not been fully implemented in previous CARES Act reports. Full implementation of these recommendations would strengthen the federal government’s efforts to improve public health and the economy, as well as address program integrity and fraud issues.
“We want the government’s pandemic relief programs to be as effective and transparent as possible, and implementing our recommendations can greatly improve the federal response,” said Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States. United and head of the GAO. “Our recommendations are aimed at improving public health and economic recovery efforts, and reducing fraud and overpayments.”
Agencies have generally responded to our new recommendations. As Congress and the administration continue to take action in response to the pandemic, we have defined new areas of action and provided situation updates where challenges remain:
Small business loan fraud. As of March 2020, the Department of Justice has announced charges in numerous fraud cases associated with the Paycheque Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Disaster Lending Program (EIDL). To mitigate the risk of fraud, GAO recommends that the Small Business Administration:
- Conduct and document a fraud risk assessment for EIDL and PPP programs
- Develop a comprehensive monitoring plan that looks for fraud risks in the EIDL program
- Develop a strategy on how to deal with these risks in the EIDL program
- Describe specific actions on how to continuously monitor and manage PPP fraud risks
Unemployment excess payments. As of March 2021, more than $ 3.6 billion in pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) overpayments from March 2020 to February 2021 were identified by states, according to the Department of Labor (DOL) . The DOL implemented our recommendation to collect data on states’ collection of PUA overpayments, but without data on the amount of overpayments canceled by states, it is unclear how much states will or will not recover. GAO recommends that DOL collect data on the amount of PUA overpayments that states have waived.
Collection and sharing of vaccine data. Almost half of the data collected from states on vaccines administered does not contain the race and ethnicity of the recipient, according to Health and Human Services (HHS). The GAO recommends that the HHS take steps to ensure complete reporting of race and ethnicity from state data. To improve tracking and transparency, GAO recommends that the HHS make public all data related to nursing home immunization efforts.. The GAO is also urging the HHS to require nursing homes to offer COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff.
Communication of pandemic data. HHS publishes its COVID-19 data on multiple websites, making it difficult for the public to access information about COVID-19. To improve the federal government’s communication about the pandemic to the public, the GAO suggests that HHS make all of its various COVID-19 data sources accessible from a centralized internet location.
Education K-12. The Education Department has started tracking state and school district spending on some COVID-19 relief funds, but there is a lag between when schools use the funds and when they are. declared as spent in Education. As a result of this delay, policymakers lack timely information that could be used to address educational needs related to the pandemic. The GAO recommends that Education regularly collect and publish information on the financial commitments of school districts.
For more information, please contact Chuck Young at 202-512-4800 or email [email protected]
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