Iowa could improve disclosure of CARES Act assistance spending

Iowa is neither an “exemplary state” at disclosing Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act assistance spending nor a state that has “inadequate or no disclosure,” a new report from national policy resource center Good Jobs First concluded.

Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wyoming provide a clear picture of how they spend Coronavirus Relief Fund monies, earning them designation as providing “exemplary disclosure,” the report said.

States can use CRF spending for COVID-19-prompted expenditures and costs that occurred between March 2020 and December 2021, if such expenditures and costs hadn’t been accounted for in their budgets. They must report CRF expenditures quarterly to the U.S. Treasury. They must disclose who or what received at least $50,000 in CRF funding, when that transaction took place and the exact amount spent. They must assign these awards to one of 18 categories the Treasury Department has listed.

The Treasury Department shares the data with the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, but PRAC website users can only view data from the past quarter.

“That is, even residents in states without a CRF website or one with very little information looking for information still cannot obtain a full accounting of how taxpayer dollars have been spent throughout the pandemic,” the report said.

While Iowa’s website accounting for these expenditures makes CRF information “easily accessible” and details agency or funds allocations and expenditure categories for recipients’ and vendors’ spending, it does not list agency or fund recipients and vendors or provide recipient or vendor spending descriptions. It also does not include State Department of Education and Department of Health program data, which are states’ two largest expenses, the report said. The CARES Act addresses a public health crisis so that is another reason to provide that information, the report said.

Compare that with Alabama. Its website dedicated to CRF has a homepage linking to pages that share an overview of the program and eligible uses, how much money was allocated to agriculture and forestry programs, and a page of resources for constituents.

“But perhaps the most important page on Alabama’s website is a matrix that discloses all state CRF expenditures,” the report said. “The database first allows users to see the CRF budget for each state agency, department, locality, or program and how much of it was spent. It then drills down further, documenting recipients and how much each one received. Most of the recipients disclose which categories those expenditures fall into (i.e., ‘medical,’ ‘workplace safety preparations,’ telework expenses,’ etc.).”

Arizona, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia do not have CRF websites, the report said. New York’s website is difficult to find, and Texas has limited detail on its CRF page and instead provides it on its open data portal website, which most residents aren’t familiar with, it said.

Good Jobs First recommends the U.S. Treasury matches required categories for final CRF quarterly reports with those used for CSLFRF reporting. It also recommends governments receiving both monies be required to have a website landing page that tracks COVID-19 spending actions and to post quarterly reports to the U.S. Treasury that are broken down by agency, sub-recipient and vendor. Finally, prime recipients of CRF and CSLRF should highlight education department data, report writers said.

This article was originally posted on Iowa could improve disclosure of CARES Act assistance spending

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