In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress appropriated $2.6 trillion in emergency assistance for people, businesses, the health care system, and state and local governments. The U. S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is examining many aspects of the federal response and is the source for fact-based, nonpartisan information. The CARES Act requires GAO to issue bi-monthly reports on the impact of COVID-19.
In its most recent report entitled “COVID-19: Urgent Actions Needed to Better Ensure an Effective Federal Response” dated November 30, 2020, the GAO “uncovered the need for more transparency around vaccines and therapeutics, unemployment numbers, and more. Medical supply shortages continue to be an urgent concern.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in catastrophic loss of life and substantial damage to the global economy, stability, and security. According to federal data, the U.S. had an average of 116,000 new COVID-19 cases per day from November 1 through November 12, 2020. Between January 2020 and October 2020, at least 237,000 more deaths occurred from all causes, including COVID-19, than would normally be expected, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the economy has improved since July 2020, many people remain unemployed, including both those temporarily laid off and those who have permanently lost their job. Also, more households have become seriously delinquent on mortgage payments during the pandemic. In addition, GAO’s review of academic studies suggests the pandemic will likely remain a significant obstacle to more robust economic activity.
Some of the findings from the most recent report are:
- Medical supplies: In the GAO’s national survey, one-third to one-half of states and territories reported ongoing shortages of some testing-related and other medical supplies. Most states reported certain PPE supplies (e.g., nitrile gloves) remain scarce, and about one-third of respondents were “greatly” or “completely” concerned about having enough supplies to administer vaccines in the future. Given the surge of COVID-19 cases and these reported medical supply shortages, the GAO believes it is critically important that its previous recommendations on better managing the supply chain be implemented.
- Vaccines and therapeutics: As the federal government has made a concerted effort to speed development of vaccines and therapeutics, a recent report recommended that the FDA improve transparency of scientific reviews to boost public confidence in its decision making.
- Testing guidelines: Guidance is expected to evolve as new information about the coronavirus emerges, but HHS and CDC haven’t always communicated the scientific explanation for frequent changes during the pandemic and the GAO recommends doing so.
- Unemployment insurance: The Department of Labor’s weekly news releases don’t provide an accurate estimate of the total number of individuals actually claiming unemployment insurance. The GAO recommends DOL improve its data to better understand the economic role of this benefit during the pandemic.
“In this report, we also identify new concerns about the timely reporting of improper payments for COVID-19 programs. The COVID-19 relief laws appropriated over a trillion dollars that may be spent through newly established programs to fund response and recovery efforts, such as PPP and UI. While the extent and significance of improper payments associated with these funds has not yet been determined, the impact of improper payments, including those that are the result of fraud, could be substantial. We also have concerns about the possibility that improper payments could be widespread based on indications of fraud across these programs.”
The GAO report concluded: “As we approach the end of 2020, the federal government must be agile to address the ongoing and evolving challenges and risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our recommendations identify new opportunities for the federal government to make midcourse corrections to its efforts by improving the communication of pandemic-related guidance and information, the collection and reporting of key public health and economic data, and the oversight and accountability of CARES Act programs. We will continue to monitor the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and identify any needed improvements.”
If you or a loved one may have a COVID-19 medical malpractice claim in the United States, you should promptly contact a COVID-19 medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your COVID-19 medical malpractice claim for you and represent you and/or your loved one in a COVID-19 medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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