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GAO Finds Room for Improvement in Federal COVID-19 Response

As the nation continues to respond to, and recover from, the COVID-19 pandemic, increases in COVID-19 cases in July, August, and September 2021, primarily due to the Delta variant of the virus, have hampered these efforts.

In its latest report into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) makes 16 new recommendations, including on ways to ensure proper use of relief funds, oversee worker safety and health, and reduce fraud risks.

As the nation continues to respond to, and recover from, the COVID-19 pandemic, increases in COVID-19 cases in July, August, and September 2021, primarily due to the Delta variant of the virus, have hampered these efforts. From the end of July 2021 to September 23, 2021, the number of new cases reported each day generally exceeded 100,000, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. This was a daily case count not seen since February 2021.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccination efforts continue. As of September 23, 2021, about 64 percent of the U.S. population eligible for vaccination (those 12 years and older), or almost 183 million individuals, had been fully vaccinated, according to CDC.

GAO says the government must remain vigilant and agile to address the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and its cascading impacts. Furthermore, as the administration implements the provisions in the COVID-19 relief laws, the size and scope of these efforts—from distributing funding to implementing new programs—demand strong accountability and oversight. The government has already addressed some of GAO’s recommendations, resulting in improvements including increased oversight of relief payments to individuals and improved transparency of decision-making for emergency use authorizations for vaccines and therapeutics.

Most of the new recommendations in GAO’s October 27 report relate to fiscal relief funds for health care providers, recovery funds for states and localities, worker safety and health, and assessing fraud risks to unemployment insurance programs.

The watchdog also recommends that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires the agency’s Public Assistance employees in the regions and at its Consolidated Resource Centers to attend training on changes to COVID-19 Public Assistance policy. GAO also wants FEMA to further clarify and communicate relief eligibility requirements nationwide.

Read the full report at GAO

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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