Sneak Preview: ED OIG Offers CARES Act Oversight Suggestions

Jerry Ashworth
October 2, 2020 at 07:45:51 ET
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(The following was excerpted from a recent Thompson Grants 360 article.) The Department of Education (ED) should consider lessons learned from the oversight of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funding (Pub. L. 111-5) when monitoring funds that were rapidly made available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (Pub. L. 116-136) to limit fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement of these funds, according to a recent ED Office of Inspector General (OIG) report.

The CARES Act provided $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, including $16.8 billion for state and local agencies and $13.9 billion for higher education. It also allowed ED to provide waivers of certain statutory or regulatory requirements for state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) that request them, and included student financial assistance provisions intended to provide emergency relief to borrowers facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet and to allow institutions to more easily meet student needs. As of Sept. 3, ED had obligated about 97% of its CARES Act funding.

ED experienced a similarly significant increase in appropriations in 2009 under the Recovery Act, when it was allocated more than $98 billion for education-related programs.

OIG explained that its audits of the agency have found persistent challenges in grant oversight, monitoring, data quality and reporting since 2008. Audits of Recovery Act-related funding also found concerns in these areas, and OIG anticipated that the funding provided by the CARES Act will create additional oversight challenges for ED. OIG released a 2014 report on lessons learned from the implementation of Recovery Act programs, gleaned from more than 50 OIG audits of those programs. ED “should consider these persistent challenges and the lessons learned from its administration of the Recovery Act as it implements and administers the programs and provisions authorized under the CARES Act to reduce vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, noncompliance and other issues that could impact a grantee’s or subgrantee’s ability to achieve intended programmatic results,” OIG said.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time here.)

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