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Blue Dog Democrats call for stronger oversight on COVID-19 spending

Blue Dog Democrats call for stronger oversight on COVID-19 spending
© Greg Nash

Blue Dog Democrats are calling for stronger oversight on coronavirus spending in response to a Government Accountability Office report that found stimulus payments went out to nearly 1.1 million dead people at a cost of $1.4 billion. 

“Never before in our history has Congress spent so much money so quickly as we have in response to COVID-19. Unprecedented spending, while necessary, creates an unprecedented opportunity for funds to be misused and other forms of mischief,” the member wrote in a letter to congressional leaders in both parties.

“Although the Administration has taken limited steps to increase transparency and accountability, it is incumbent upon Congress to further strengthen oversight," said the letter, led by Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Ed CaseEdward (Ed) CaseMORE (D-Hawaii).

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The letter singled out the payments to dead people as an issue of concern.

“Stop Sending Checks to Dead People: According to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), as of April 30, the Trump Administration has made nearly 1.1 million economic impact payments to deceased individuals, totaling almost $1.4 billion. This is unacceptable,” the letter says. 

“Congress should fix the problem by including the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act in the next COVID-19 relief bill. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would, among other things, require federal agencies to make appropriate use of death data in order to curb improper payments to people who are no longer living."

The group also called for protections to be put in place for inspectors general and federal whistleblowers, nothing that the Blue Dogs have endorsed legislation aimed at preventing “partisan firing without cause.”

They also suggested that Congress should codify the bipartisan Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act, which would require federal agencies to report their activities to the Office of Management and Budget.

And they called for Congress to require the Federal Reserve to keep records on its response. The Fed has instigated a number of efforts to help the economy in response to the pandemic.

“Given that the Fed has authorized nearly $6 trillion in economic support in response to the pandemic, the American people deserve to know how the Fed plans to use that money, and the full rationale and deliberations behind its decisions.”