The Government Accountability Office, a government watchdog, has been called in to oversee federal spending during the pandemic (https://www.npr.org/2020/04/25/844644196/congressional-watchdog-to-review-federal-coronavirus-response). This comes as federal spending reaches all time highs, with Congress passing two stimulus bills totaling almost $3 trillion. The GAO is a part of Congress and serves as a non-partisan agency. They will be reporting every 60 days with their first report due in June. Here is what they will be looking over.
The C.A.R.E.S. Act, passed March 27, $2.2 trillion: $560 billion for individuals in the form of $1,200 stimulus checks, $500 billion for large corporations, $377 for small businesses, $339.8 billion for state and local governments, 153.5 billion for the public health, $43.7 billion for education/other, and $26 billion for a safety net. The small business fund ran out quickly and somewhat controversially as major publicly traded companies received payment as well. These companies have been told by the Small Business Administration to return the payments by May 7. This is one major reason why oversight is essential as funds have already been misallocated.
COVID-19 relief package, passed April 24, $484 billion: $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, $75 billion for hospitals, $60 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and $25 billion for COVID-19 testing. Democrats have called for another spending package including payments to state and local governments, hazard pay, food aid, funding for the Post Office, and money for election security. The figure for this next package is not yet known.
With all of this spending mistakes are inevitable. Some may use this as an excuse to increase government authority to more effectively function. Others will instead see this as an opportunity to increase government oversight. In the past former Congressman Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand Paul have introduced bills focused on auditing federal fiscal practices, however, both have failed. If we are going to concede more power to the government shouldn't there be a way to still hold it accountable? Will the oversight of the GAO be enough or will it only serve as a temporary tool to provide a superficial peace of mind?
Image credit Sue Ogrocki/AP