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For the Federal Response to COVID-19, Significant Improvements Are Needed in Leadership and Oversight

GAO Blog: “As of November, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) spent nearly $38 billion of the almost $47 billion appropriated for Emergency Rental Assistance programs. This funding was provided to help renter households whose income was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic with rent, utilities, and other housing expenses.The funds were disbursed as grants to state, local, and tribal governments—which then paid landlords and utility companies, on the renters’ behalf. If the grantees overpaid or paid ineligible people, Treasury did not have a process to find out or quickly get that money back. We are recommending that Treasury design and implement processes—such as post-payment reviews and recovery audits—that can help ensure timely identification and recovery of grantees’ overpayments. We also recommend that the Office of Management and Budget—in consultation with Treasury—issue guidance on the rental assistance programs to help ensure that auditors of such federal financial assistance identify deficiencies in grantees’ compliance with program requirements…In our new report, we found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) doesn’t have a comprehensive strategy for how its nutrition assistance programs should respond during emergencies like COVID-19. FNS administers several food assistance programs, including a new program—Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)—that served low-income children who would have received school lunches or meals if they hadn’t been learning remotely because of COVID-19. But FNS’s pandemic plans are outdated, and its efforts to identify and incorporate lessons learned from the pandemic are incomplete…”

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