Common Challenges Facing Agencies Receiving COVID-19 Relief Funding

Published: June 24, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisCoronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicGSAHHSIRSOSDVAWaste, Fraud, and Abuse

Last week the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) released its first report, which analyzes the challenges facing agencies that received COVID-19 related relief funding.

Key Takeaways:

  • Top common challenges for agencies receiving COVID-19 relief funding include: financial management of CARES Act and other funds; grant management; IT security and management; and protecting health and safety while maintaining effective operations.
  • The PRAC hopes that their analysis and compilation of the common challenges facing COVID-19 response agencies will lend insight and assist policymakers in addressing these challenges.

The CARES Act established the PRAC as one of the entities responsible for providing transparency and oversight for COVID-19 federal relief spending. The committee was created within the existing Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) specifically “to promote transparency and conduct and support oversight of covered funds and the Coronavirus response to prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement; and mitigate major risks that cut across program and agency boundaries.” The PRAC is to provide oversight for funds disbursed through all COVID-19 response legislation. The CARES Act legislation provides $80M in funding for the PRAC.

For its first report, the PRAC instructed Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs) at 37 agencies that received relief funding to summarize top challenges faced by their agencies with intent of recognizing common themes and areas of concern.  The PRAC found the following common challenges among agencies involved in the pandemic response:

  • Financial management of CARES Act and other funds
  • Grant management
  • Information technology security and management
  • Protecting health and safety while maintaining effective operations

Many of the above challenges stem from the large amount of funds provided by the various relief bills and the speed at which it needed to be distributed in order to make an effective impact. The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, CARES Act, and Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provide approximately $2.4T in funding for relief and response to the public health crisis and the economy due to the pandemic.  The need to provide aid quickly in the form of grants and loans, makes it ripe for fraud, waste, and abuse. The PRAC hopes this initial report will assist policymakers in addressing agency challenges in the face of emerging risks and changing priorities.

The PRAC’s 92-page report includes detailed specific challenges for each of the 37 agencies analyzed. Highlights for several top departments/agencies are cited below:

Veterans Affairs

  • Mitigating Risks to Patients and Staff
  • Maintaining Access to Care
  • Providing Accurate and Timely Claims Decisions and Appeals
  • Identifying and Mitigating the Risk of Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

Health and Human Services

  • Protecting People
  • Protecting Funds
  • Protecting Infrastructure

Internal Revenue Service

  • Providing Tax Relief to Offset Economic Hardship
  • Continuity of Operations
  • Preventing Scams

Department of Defense

  • Maintaining Readiness and Ongoing Operations While Adhering to COVID-19 Restrictions
  • Ensuring Access and Quality of Health Care to Service Members and Their Families
  • Ensuring Appropriate Financial Management and Accountability of COVID-19 Spending

General Services Administration

  • Protecting the Health and Safety of Building Occupants
  • Accurate Reporting of CARES Act Spending
  • Providing Effective Contract Administration for Emergency Procurements
  • Safeguarding Federal Facilities and Providing a Secure Work Environment

OIGs identify the top performance and management challenges for their agencies each year.  The PRAC hopes that the analysis and compilation of the common challenges facing COVID-19 response agencies will provide policymakers with more information and lend transparency and accountability to government response efforts.