“We are writing to bring to your attention an issue that could impact the ability of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) and federal Inspectors General to provide effective oversight of over $1 trillion in pandemic-related funds, as well as transparency to the public about how those monies are being spent,” Horowitz and Westbrooks wrote.
At issue is the structure of the CARES Act, which split its major programs between two “divisions” of the law. Division A included most of the major new relief programs like PPP, the economic stabilization program, as well as $150 billion in relief to states and local governments and $32 billion in support for aviation workers. Division B of the law authorized government-wide appropriations for federal agencies involved in coronavirus response. Administration lawyers, in a legal analysis provided to the Treasury inspector general, indicated that the reporting requirements in the law could be applied only to the appropriations contained in Division B.
“If this interpretation of the CARES Act were correct, it would raise questions about the PRAC’s authority to conduct oversight of Division A funds,” Horowitz and Westbrooks wrote. “This would present potentially significant transparency and oversight issues.”
Already, there’s bipartisan pushback on Capitol Hill about the administration’s interpretation of the law. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has indicated he’ll support a legislative fix to address the transparency requirement.
“American taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent,” said a Shelby spokeswoman, Blair Taylor. “Neither the letter nor the spirit of the law limit the accountability committee’s purview in that regard.”