WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing to assess the federal government’s oversight of pandemic emergency relief spending and ensure these funds have been effectively used to help Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee heard from senior officials and federal Inspectors General on how federal agencies have worked to limit waste, fraud and abuse in federal pandemic spending. During the hearing, Peters highlighted the work of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), which he helped to create and strengthen as a part of COVID-19 relief legislation passed by Congress. While the PRAC, along with other federal agencies, have conducted effective oversight of critical pandemic aid to ensure it reached the Americans who need it most, Peters made it clear that more work is needed to prevent criminals from fraudulently accessing these funds.
“The federal government’s efforts to tackle this pandemic have been a monumental task and our federal agencies have been working around the clock to help keep Americans safe, and make sure this critical aid reached the families, small businesses and health care providers who needed it most,” said Peters during his opening statement. “While I’m grateful for these successes and that our federal government got relief funds out the door as quickly as possible, the swift release of funding also exposed the potential for mismanagement and lack of internal controls that left many programs vulnerable, especially to fraud.”
Peters continued: “Congress and the Administration must better understand the underlying causes that led to the fraud across these programs, and put the government on stronger financial footing for any future spending priorities.”
To watch video of Senator Peters’ question, click here.
At the hearing, Peters and the witnesses discussed the PRAC and Inspectors General’s oversight successes and what more they need to do to prevent fraud and hold criminals accountable. Peters also raised concerns about widely reported improper payments related to unemployment insurance, small business relief from the Payment Protection Program, and stimulus checks. The committee examined what actions Congress can take to help the government combat identity theft – which grew more pervasive during the pandemic. Finally the witnesses discussed what more oversight agencies can do to coordinate efforts to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse across the government.
In his role on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has led efforts to ensure responsible use of pandemic relief funds. In addition to helping create the PRAC, Peters’ provision to help save billions of federal taxpayer dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals was signed into law last Congress. Peters also helped secure $10 million for the Government Accountability Office to help conduct their COVID-19 oversight work.