President Biden: COVID Relief Needs ‘Fastidious Oversight’

President Biden speaks about the COVID-19 relief package in the State Dining Room of the White House on March 15.

President Biden speaks about the COVID-19 relief package in the State Dining Room of the White House on March 15. Patrick Semansky/AP

The American Rescue Plan is the latest in the federal government’s historic pandemic spending. 

During an address on Monday, President Biden stressed the importance of oversight and accountability in spending the funds in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package enacted last week. 

The “American Rescue Plan” is the latest in the federal government’s historic spending over the past year in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. “It requires fastidious oversight to make sure the relief arrives quickly, equitability and efficiently with no waste or fraud,” Biden said. “We have to prove to the American people that their government can deliver for them and do it without waste or fraud.” This delivery will come in the form of vaccinating everyone, getting kids back to school, boosting the economy, helping businesses and sending relief payments. 

While not mentioning former President Trump or the Trump administration specifically, Biden said that after the $2.2 trillion CARES Act was enacted last March, “one of the first things the previous administration did was fire the head of the inspectors general committee.” He was referring to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, created under the CARES Act, and Glenn Fine, then performing the duties of the Pentagon inspector general.  

The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency appointed Fine to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee on March 30, 2020, but then on April 6, President Trump removed Fine from his acting IG position, thus stripping him of his ability to lead the committee. Fine went back to his previous position of principal deputy IG at the Pentagon and then announced on May 26 he was resigning. 

This came after Trump issued a signing statement for the CARES Act that objected to some of the oversight provisions. 

Biden also said under the previous administration small business relief “became a free-for-all for well-connected companies.” There have also been various reports by the Small Business Administration IG and Government Accountability Office about the potential for fraud in the programs. 

However, under his administration with the newly appointed head of relief implementation––Gene Sperling, a former two-time head of the National Economic Council––“we’re going to make sure that the benefits of the American Rescue Plan go out quickly and directly to the American people where they belong,” Biden said.  

To stay on track with spending for the rest of 2021, the administration must spend $3.7 billion on average per day, which equals $43,000 every second, The Associated Press reported last week.

In the rescue package, the oversight committee received $40 million for its efforts, GAO received $77 million and many agency IG offices received funding allocations as well. 

Biden also reflected during his speech on his time overseeing the implementation of the 2009 “Recovery Act,” which included assembling an accountability board with IGs from different agencies. “They said we got it done with less than two-tenths of 1% waste or fraud,” he said. Since taking office he has stressed the importance of oversight for pandemic response efforts. 

Besides the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, the CARES Act also created a special IG position and a congressional oversight commission, which are providing continuous updates and reports on their work. 

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