The need for oversight of Trump administration coronavirus spending has reached an inflection point, with numerous reports in recent weeks of coronavirus-related spending flowing to Trump administration allies causing corruption concerns. As aid from the CARES Act quickly runs out, Democratic and Republican congressional leadership and Trump administration officials are negotiating another stimulus bill in response to the devastating economic effects of the pandemic.
Through the CARES Act and the House of Representatives’ independent efforts, four new federal oversight authorities have been created to monitor coronavirus relief, in addition to other oversight activities that are ongoing. Without timely, transparent, and strict guidelines, past oversight failures — including those during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis — could be repeated, and money spent ineffectively, corruptly, and in ways that do not benefit their intended recipients: the American people. The House has been particularly active in its attempts to hold the Trump administration accountable, but it cannot operate alone given the volume and nature of the relief packages. With the challenges effective oversight has faced to date, the issue of what it should look like in the two current proposed bills — HEROES Act and Heals Act — is one of paramount importance.
On August 6, Governance Studies at Brookings hosted a webinar examining congressional oversight of COVID-19 relief funds to date and what oversight ought to look like going forward. Panelists discussed what Congress and other oversight actors need to do to implement vigorous oversight to ensure that the money disbursed by the relief packages gets to the people who need it the most.