Following DOI CARES Act and COVID Related Spending

Published: May 12, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisCoronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicForecasts and SpendingDOI

A look at Interior’s CARES Act spending and reported contract obligations reveals the agency’s priorities in deep cleaning services, IT and medical equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Key Takeaways:

  • The CARES Act allocated $756M to the Department of Interior, largely to distribute to Indian Country, but also to aid in the continuity of agency operations.
  • The DOI IG issued a special report to track spending and progress on CARES Act funds through the end of April, broken out by DOI’s expenditures ($169M), obligations ($388M) and credit card purchases ($2.4M).
  • The agency spent $390M in contract and grant obligations, primarily for janitorial, deep cleaning, decontamination services, and other response mechanisms to coronavirus.
  • Interior reports nearly $11.2M in contract obligations related to COVID-19, spread across the agency’s largest bureaus, and led by $6.4M in IT-related requirements.  

CARES Act Funding at Interior

Passed at the end of March, the $1.9T in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides funding to address COVID-19 ramifications on the economy, public health, federal agencies, state and local governments, individuals and businesses. For its part, the Department of Interior received $756M to support the needs of the agency, its bureaus, and the territories it oversees. The majority of DOI funding, 69%, aids Indian Country, while remaining dollars help continuity of agency operations:

  • $453M to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for containment in detention facilities, aid for tribal governments, welfare assistance and social services programs, and related IT and administrative costs
  • $158.4 to the Office of Secretary (OS) to clean buildings and public areas, provide law enforcement/guard services, bolster telework capabilities, provide additional funds for the OIG, and for emergency personnel deployed to critical areas
  • $69M to the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) towards extended teacher and workforce salaries, associated transportation needs, telework, and aid for tribal colleges
  • $55M to the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) to assist territories and free states with COVID-related needs, including medical supplies, facilities and healthcare services
  • $20.6M to the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) split between the Water and Related Resources ($12.5M) and Policy and Administration ($8.1M) accounts to support telework, clean facilities, and provide medical services.

IG Findings on Spending

On May 5, Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report detailing the DOI’s progress with CARES Act funds. In it, the OIG found DOI awarded a total of $390M through April 28, $389M in grants/financial assistance awards and $287K in contracts. These awards primarily fell into four buckets: decontamination trailers, janitorial services, sanitation and deep cleaning, and preparing preventing and responding to COVID-19. DOI also spent $2.4M of its CARES Act funding using Government charge cards. The OIG provides the following table as a breakdown of DOI CARES Act funds spent among its bureaus, by expenditures vs. obligations. Expenditures are payments of funds and obligations are legally binding agreements – leading to expenditures.

Source: DOI/OIG

FPDS Reported Spending

Looking at FPDS, Interior reported $11.2M (as of May 11) in COVID-19 related contract obligations. This total differs vastly from the $287K figure provided by the OIG for the sheer fact that the OIG report centers on DOI’s CARES Act allocations only. Disbursements reported by the OIG report and that of FPDS share the similar theme - DOI is centering its COVID-19 spending on cleaning-related services. Yet the similarities really stop there.

FPDS shows a spread in COVID-19 spending across Interior’s largest bureaus. Nearly all of DOI’s bureaus seen above report Professional Services and IT-related obligations. BIA and NPS obligations expand beyond those two types of requirements, into areas of medical & scientific equipment, health services, machinery, equipment & tools, and architecture, engineering and construction.

Spending under IT includes $1.2M for rapid-response laptops among several bureaus, remaining IT obligations ranges from network-related software to cellphones to wireless services, all to help facilitate telework throughout the agency.    The majority of obligations under medial & scientific equipment lie in PPE equipment for the BIA ($1.4M), NPS ($532K), and the Interior Business Center ($516K).  Professional Services largely includes janitorial and deep cleaning services throughout Interior national offices, totaling $1.6M, among other services such as guard, transportation, education and counseling services.

The top ten companies that received COVID-19 related obligations represent 71% of total spending at DOI. Cloudshape, LLC received nearly $2.6M for CITRIX software to bolster the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) network infrastructure. Davis Memorial Goodwill Industries provided complete custodial services for the US Geological Survey. Dell Technologies provided rapid response laptops at several BIA regional offices including those in Alaska, Eastern Oklahoma, Great Plains, Rocky Mountain and Navajo and Southwest.

Future Spending

The OIG report does not go into detail as to who is receiving DOI’s CARES Act funding, although some CARES Act dollars may be intertwined with what is reported by FPDS (FPDS does not make the distinction between CARES Act vs. COVID-related obligations).  However, the OIG report states that due to a recent ruling, COVID-19 relief funding slated for Indian Country cannot all go to Alaska Native Corporations but rather directly to the tribes. The OIG states it will continue to track the agency’s CARES Act spending on a monthly basis, holding agency spending accountable alongside OMB and Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC).