Key Issues > Coronavirus Oversight > Past Pandemic-Related Reports  

Coronavirus Oversight

An ongoing review of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic and oversight of related spending.
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Past Pandemic-Related Reports

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Animal Diseases

Infectious animal diseases can pose potential threats to humans as well as livestock. Our past work in this area may help inform preparedness for current and future infectious disease outbreaks that may originate from animals.

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Children’s Issues

Our past work on childhood trauma, child safety, and school meals could prove instructive as the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic emerge.

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Consumer Protection

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new ways for thieves and scammers to commit fraud against unsuspecting people. Our body of work on fraud, consumer schemes, and misleading advertisements highlight the importance of consumer protection.

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Contingent Workforce

Under the Pandemic Unemployment Relief provisions of the CARES Act, self-employed or contingent workers will have access to unemployment insurance. These reports help define that population and outline some of the challenges they face with benefits and financial security.

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Cybersecurity, Information Technology, Federal Telework, and Broadband Access

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of broadband/internet access—for telework, telehealth, distance learning, and more. Information technology and cybersecurity issues are even more important in this environment. Our past work looks at existing capabilities and ongoing challenges.

Related Reports

Science & Tech Spotlight: 5G Wireless
GAO-20-421SP (Mar 16, 2020)

Public-Safety Broadband Network: Network Deployment Is Progressing, but FirstNet Could Strengthen Its Oversight
GAO-20-346 (Jan 27, 2020)

Cloud Computing: Agencies Have Increased Usage and Realized Benefits, but Cost and Savings Data Need to Be Better Tracked
GAO-19-58 (Apr 4, 2019)

Cybersecurity: DHS Needs to Enhance Efforts to Improve and Promote the Security of Federal and Private-Sector Networks
GAO-18-520T (Apr 24, 2018)

Broadband: Additional Stakeholder Input Could Inform FCC Actions to Promote Competition
GAO-17-742 (Sep 19, 2017)

Telecommunications: Additional Action Needed to Mitigate Significant Risks in FCC's Lifeline Program
GAO-17-805T (Sep 14, 2017. Public: Sep 14, 2017)

Public Health Information Technology: HHS Has Made Little Progress toward Implementing Enhanced Situational Awareness Network Capabilities
GAO-17-377 (Sep 6, 2017)

Telecommunications: Additional Action Needed to Address Significant Risks in FCC's Lifeline Program
GAO-17-538 (May 30, 2017; Public: Jun 29, 2017)

Federal Telework: Additional Controls Could Strengthen Telework Program Compliance and Data Reporting
GAO-17-247 (Feb 17, 2017)

Cybersecurity: Actions Needed to Strengthen U.S. Capabilities
GAO-17-440T (Feb 14, 2017)

Defense Civil Support: DOD Needs to Identify National Guard's Cyber Capabilities and Address Challenges in Its Exercises
GAO-16-574 (Sep 6, 2016)

Federal Telework: Better Guidance Could Help Agencies Calculate Benefits and Costs
GAO-16-551 (Jul 15, 2016)

Civil Support: DOD Needs to Clarify Its Roles and Responsibilities for Defense Support of Civil Authorities during Cyber Incidents
GAO-16-332 (Apr 4, 2016)

Telecommunications: Additional Coordination and Performance Measurement Needed for High-Speed Internet Access Programs on Tribal Lands
GAO-16-222 (Jan 2016)

Telecommunications: Federal Broadband Deployment Programs and Small Business
GAO-14-203 (Feb 7, 2014)

Emergency Preparedness: Agencies Need Coordinated Guidance on Incorporating Telework into Emergency and Continuity Planning
GAO-11-628 (Jul 22, 2011)

Education, Federal Student Aid, and Online Learning

Our past work related to student loan repayment and interest accrual; challenges faced by postsecondary students with disabilities; and distance education.

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Higher Education: More Information Could Help Student Parents Access Additional Federal Student Aid
GAO-19-522 (Aug 20, 2019; Public Sep 12, 2019)

Federal Student Loans: Education Needs to Verify Borrowers' Information for Income-Driven Repayment Plans
GAO-19-347 (Jun 25, 2019; Public: Jul 25, 2019)

Federal Student Loans: Further Actions Needed to Implement Recommendations on Oversight of Loan Servicers
GAO-18-587R (Jul 27, 2018)

Higher Education: Education Should Address Oversight and Communication Gaps in Its Monitoring of the Financial Condition of Schools
GAO-17-555 (Aug 21, 2017)

Social Security Offsets: Improvements to Program Design Could Better Assist Older Student Loan Borrowers with Obtaining Permitted Relief
GAO-17-45 (Dec 19, 2016)

Federal Student Loans: Education Needs to Improve Its Income-Driven Repayment Plan Budget Estimates
GAO-17-22 (Nov 15, 2016)

Federal Student Loans: Education Could Improve Direct Loan Program Customer Service and Oversight
GAO-16-523 (May 16, 2016)

Federal Student Loans: Key Weaknesses Limit Education's Management of Contractors
GAO-16-196T (Nov 18, 2015)

Higher Education and Disability: Improved Federal Enforcement Needed to Better Protect Students' Rights to Testing Accommodations
GAO-12-40 (Nov. 29, 2012)

Higher Education: Use of New Data Could Help Improve Oversight of Distance Education
GAO-12-39 (Nov 17, 2011)

For-Profit Schools: Experiences of Undercover Students Enrolled in Online Classes at Selected Colleges
GAO-12-150 (Oct 31, 2011; Public: Nov 22, 2011)

Higher Education and Disability: Education Needs a Coordinated Approach to Improve Its Assistance to Schools in Supporting Students
GAO-10-33 (Oct 28, 2009)

Distance Education: Challenges for Minority Serving Institutions and Implications for Federal Education Policy
GAO-04-78T (Oct 6, 2003)

Distance Education: Growth in Distance Education Programs and Implications for Federal Education Policy
GAO-02-1125T (Sep 26, 2002; Public: Sep 26, 2002)

Federal Disaster Response

Our body of disaster response work addresses the federal, state, and local response to disasters including natural and biological disasters such as pandemics. Our recent disaster recovery work highlights the challenges in the federal and state response to disasters and ways to increase preparedness and improve response.

Related Reports

Disaster Recovery: Recent Disasters Highlight Progress and Challenges
GAO-20-183T (October 2019)

Disaster Response: HHS Should Address Deficiencies Highlighted by Recent Hurricanes in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
GAO-19-592 (September 2019)

Disaster Response: FEMA and the American Red Cross Need to Ensure Key Mass Care Organizations Are Included in Coordination and Planning
GAO-19-526 (September 2019)

Emergency Management: FEMA Has Made Progress, but Challenges and Future Risks Highlight Imperative for Further Improvements
GAO-19-594T (Jun 2019)

Disaster Assistance: FEMA Action Needed to Better Support Individuals Who Are Older or Have Disabilities
GAO-19-318 (May 2019)

2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires: Initial Observations on the Federal Response and Key Recovery Challenges
GAO-18-472 (September 2018)

Emergency Management: Federal Agencies Could Improve Dissemination of Resources to Colleges
GAO-18-233 ( Jan. 2018)

Embassy Evacuations: State Department Should Take Steps to Improve Emergency Preparedness
GAO-17-714 (July 2017)

Defense Civil Support: DOD Has Made Progress Incorporating the Homeland Response Force into the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Response Enterprise
GAO-16-599 (Jun 28, 2016)

Federal Emergency Management Agency: Progress and Continuing Challenges in National Preparedness Efforts
GAO-16-560T (April 2016)

Emergency Management: Improved Federal Coordination Could Better Assist K-12 Schools Prepare for Emergencies
GAO-16-144 (Mar. 2016)

Civil Support: DOD Is Taking Action to Strengthen Support of Civil Authorities
GAO-15-686T (Jun 10, 2015)

Budgeting For Disasters: Approaches to Budgeting for Disasters in Selected States
GAO-15-424 (Mar 26, 2015; Public: Apr 27, 2015)

Hurricane Sandy: FEMA Has Improved Disaster Aid Verification but Could Act to Further Limit Improper Assistance
GAO-15-15 (Published: Dec 12, 2014. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 2014)

Homeland Security: Actions Needed to Improve Response to Potential Terrorist Attacks and Natural Disasters Affecting Food and Agriculture
GAO-11-652 (Aug 19, 2011; Public Sep 12, 2011)

Financial Assistance: Ongoing Challenges and Guiding Principles Related to Government Assistance For Private Sector Companies
GAO-10-719 (Aug 2010)

State Department: Wide Range of Emergency Services Provided to American Citizens Overseas, but Improved Monitoring Is Needed
GAO-09-989 (Sep 2009)

Disaster Preparedness: Better Planning Would Improve OSHA's Efforts to Protect Workers' Safety and Health in Disasters
GAO-07-193 (Mar 28, 2007)

Federal Infrastructure

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Federal Response to Economic Disruptions

Our past work on new funding, stimulus, and credit vehicles may provide insights into the federal response to COVID-19. This body of work looks at previous federal mechanisms for helping the private sector, such as loans, loan guarantees, and investments in private companies.

Related Reports

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Considerable Progress Made Implementing Business Provisions, but IRS Faces Administrative and Compliance Challenges
GAO-20-103 (Feb 25, 2020)

Small Business Administration: Disaster Loan Processing Was Timelier, but Planning Improvements and Pilot Program Evaluation Needed
GAO-20-168 (Feb 7, 2020)

Troubled Asset Relief Program: Status Update on Treasury's Two Active Investment Programs
GAO-20-218R (Dec 16, 2019)

U.S. Virgin Islands Recovery: Additional Actions Could Strengthen FEMA's Key Disaster Recovery Efforts
GAO-20-54 (Nov 19, 2019)

2017 Disaster Contracting: Actions Needed to Improve the Use of Post-Disaster Contracts to Support Response and Recovery
GAO-19-281 (Apr 24, 2019)

Economic Adjustment Assistance: Federal Programs Intended to Help Beneficiaries Adjust to Economic Disruption
GAO-19-85R (Mar 5, 2019)

Housing Finance: Prolonged Conservatorships of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Prompt Need for Reform
GAO-19-239 (Jan 18, 2019)

Troubled Asset Relief Program: Monitoring of the Hardest Hit Fund Program Could Be Strengthened
GAO-19-100 (Dec 21, 2018)

Federal Reserve: Additional Actions Could Help Ensure the Achievement of Stress Test Goals
GAO-17-48 (Nov 15, 2016)

Resolution Plans: Regulators Have Refined Their Review Processes but Could Improve Transparency and Timeliness
GAO-16-341 (Apr 12, 2016)

Housing Finance System: A Framework for Assessing Potential Changes
GAO-15-131 (Oct 7, 2014)

Recovery Act: Grant Implementation Experiences Offer Lessons for Accountability and Transparency
GAO-14-219 (Jan 24, 2014)

Dodd-Frank Regulations: Agencies Conducted Regulatory Analyses and Coordinated but Could Benefit from Additional Guidance on Major Rules
GAO-14-67 (Dec 11, 2013).

Insurance Markets: Impacts of and Regulatory Response to the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis
GAO-13-583 (Jun 27, 2013; public: Jul 29, 2013)

Financial Regulatory Reform: Financial Crisis Losses and Potential Impacts of the Dodd-Frank Act
GAO-13-180 (Jan 16, 2013; Publicly: Feb 14, 2013)

State and Local Governments: Knowledge of Past Recessions Can Inform Future Federal Fiscal Assistance
GAO-11-401 (Mar 31, 2011)

Financial Assistance: Ongoing Challenges and Guiding Principles Related to Government Assistance For Private Sector Companies
GAO-10-719 (Aug 3, 2010)

Status of the Small Business Administration's Implementation of Administrative Provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
GAO-10-298R (Jan 19, 2010)

Troubled Asset Relief Program: The U.S. Government Role as Shareholder in AIG, Citigroup, Chrysler, and General Motors and Preliminary Views on its Investment Management Activities
GAO-10-325T (Dec 16, 2009)

Recovery Act: States' and Localities' Current and Planned Uses of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses (Appendixes)
GAO-09-830SP (Jul 8, 2009) supplementary report to GAO-09-829

Small Business Administration's Implementation of Administrative Provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
GAO-09-507R (Apr 16, 2009)

Federal Spending Accountability

This body of work highlights the importance of building accountability into funding mechanisms and ensuring that agencies are establishing adequate internal controls as programs are established. Existing controls may not be adequate to account for temporary program changes. As such, emergency measures require the federal government to balance meeting the immediate needs of the citizens and industry with protecting taxpayer interests.

Related Reports

2017 Disaster Relief Oversight: Strategy Needed to Ensure Agencies’ Internal Control Plans Provide Sufficient Information
GAO-19-479 (June 2019)

Fraud Risk Management: OMB Should Improve Guidelines and Working-Group Efforts to Support Agencies' Implementation of the Fraud Reduction and Data Analytics Act
GAO-19-34 (Dec 4, 2018)

SSA Disability Benefits: Comprehensive Strategic Approach Needed to Enhance Antifraud Activities
GAO-17-228 (Apr 17, 2017; Public: Apr 26, 2017) and related hearing GAO-17-585T

Highlights of a Forum: Data Analytics to Address Fraud and Improper Payments
GAO-17-339SP (Published: Mar 31, 2017. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 2017)

Federal Spending Accountability: Preserving Capabilities of Recovery Operations Center Could Help Sustain Oversight of Federal Expenditures
GAO-15-814 (Sep 14, 2015)

A Framework For Managing Fraud Risks in Federal Progrms
GAO-15-593SP (Jul 28, 2015. Publicly Released: Jul 28, 2015)

Recovery Act: One Year Later, States' and Localities' Uses of Funds and Opportunities to Strengthen Accountability
GAO-10-437 (Mar 3, 2010)

Troubled Asset Relief Program: One Year Later, Actions Are Needed to Address Remaining Transparency and Accountability Challenges
GAO-10-16 (Oct 8, 2009)

Recovery Act: As Initial Implementation Unfolds in States and Localities, Continued Attention to Accountability Issues Is Essential
GAO-09-631T (Apr 23, 2009)

Troubled Asset Relief Program: Additional Actions Needed to Better Ensure Integrity, Accountability, and Transparency
GAO-09-161 (Dec 2, 2008)

Food Insecurity and Nutrition Assistance Programs

The current coronavirus pandemic highlights the ongoing concerns about food insecurity. Our past work addresses the nutrition needs of college students, older adults, school aged children, and servicemembers. Topics include mass care organization and coordination in disasters, and summer meals programs for K-12 students.

Related Reports

Nutrition Assistance Programs: Agencies Could Do More to Help Address the Nutritional Needs of Older Adults
GAO-20-18 (Nov 21, 2019; public Dec 23, 2019)

Disaster Response: FEMA and the American Red Cross Need to Ensure Key Mass Care Organizations are Included in Coordination and Planning
GAO-19-526 (Sep 19, 2019)

Older Americans Act: HHS Could Help Rural Service Providers by Centralizing Information on Promising Practices
GAO-19-330 (May 23, 2019. Public: Jun 24, 2019)

School Meals Programs: USDA Has Reported Taking Some Steps to Reduce Improper Payments but Should Comprehensively Assess Fraud Risks
GAO-19-389 (May 21, 2019; Public Jun 4, 2019)

Food Insecurity: Better Information Could Help Eligible College Students Access Federal Food Assistance Benefits
GAO-19-95 (Dec 21, 2018; public Jan 9, 2019)

Summer Meals: Improvements Needed to Address Participation Estimates and Program Challenges Testimony:
GAO-18-611T (Jul 17, 2018); Report GAO-18-369 (May 31, 2018; public Jul 2, 2018)

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: More Information on Promising Practices Could Enhance States' Use of Data Matching for Eligibility
GAO-17-111(Nov 17, 2016)

Military Personnel: DOD Needs More Complete Data on Active-Duty Servicemembers' Use of Food Assistance Programs
GAO-16-561 (Jul 15, 2016)

School Nutrition: USDA Has Efforts Underway to Help Address Ongoing Challenges Implementing Changes in Nutrition Standards
GAO-15-656 (Sep 14, 2015. Public Oct 14, 2015)

Older Americans Act: Updated Information on Unmet Need for Services
GAO-15-601R (Jun 15, 2015)

School Meal Programs: Implications of Adjusting Income Eligibility Thresholds and Reimbursement Rates by Geographic Differences
GAO-14-557 (Jul 8, 2014; Public Aug 7, 2014)

Medicare and Medicaid Waivers

Medicare and Medicaid waivers can help facilitate care under pandemic conditions—but appropriate oversight is needed. Our past findings provide insights into existing challenges in this area.

Related Reports

Pandemics, Infectious Diseases, and other Disease Outbreaks

This collection of reports discusses funding, administration, federal responses to prior outbreaks (e.g., Ebola and Zika), and technologies (e.g., to enable rapid diagnoses of infectious diseases), among other topics.

Related Reports

Watchdog Report

Pandemic Preparedness: Watchdog Report Deep Dig Edition

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Science & Tech Spotlight: Coronaviruses
GAO-20-472SP (Mar 2020)

Drug Development: FDA's Priority Review Voucher Programs
GAO-20-251 (Jan 2020)

Federal Research: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Public Access to Research Results
GAO-20-81 (Nov 2019)

Emergency Assistance for Zika: USAID Supported Activities Overseas but Could Improve Funds Tracking and Response Planning
GAO-19-356 (May 2019)

National Security: Long-Range Emerging Threats Facing the United States As Identified by Federal Agencies
GAO-19-204SP (Dec 13, 2018)

Zika Supplemental Funding: Status of HHS Agencies' Obligations, Disbursements, and the Activities Funded
GAO-18-389 (May 2018)

Infectious Disease Threats: Funding and Performance of Key Preparedness and Capacity-Building Programs
GAO-18-362 (May 2018)

Ebola Recovery: USAID Has Initiated or Completed Most Projects, but a Complete Project Inventory Is Still Needed for Evaluating Its Efforts
GAO-18-350 (March 2018)

Medical Devices: Capabilities and Challenges of Technologies to Enable Rapid Diagnoses of Infectious Diseases
GAO-17-347 (August 2017)

Emerging Infectious Diseases: Actions Needed to Address the Challenges of Responding to Zika Virus Disease Outbreaks
GAO-17-445 (May 2017)

Avian Influenza: USDA Has Taken Actions to Reduce Risks but Needs a Plan to Evaluate Its Efforts
GAO-17-360 (April 2017)

Defense Civil Support: DOD, HHS, and DHS Should Use Existing Coordination Mechanisms to Improve Their Pandemic Preparedness
GAO-17-150 (February 2017)

Public Health Emergencies: HHS Needs to Better Communicate Requirements and Revise Plans for Assessing Impact of Personnel Reassignment
GAO-17-187 (January 2017)

Emergency Funding for Ebola Response: Some USAID Reimbursements Did Not Comply with Legislative Requirements and Need to Be Reversed
GAO-17-35 (November 2016)

Emerging Infectious Diseases: Preliminary Observations on the Zika Virus Outbreak
GAO-16-470T (March 2016)

National Preparedness: HHS Has Funded Flexible Manufacturing Activities for Medical Countermeasures, but It Is Too Soon to Assess Their Effect
GAO-14-329 (March 2014)

Influenza: Progress Made in Responding to Seasonal and Pandemic Outbreaks
GAO-13-374T (February 2013)

Influenza Pandemic: Agencies Report Progress in Plans to Protect Federal Workers but Oversight Could Be Improved
GAO-12-748 (Jul 25, 2012; Public: Aug 1, 2012)

Influenza Pandemic: Lessons from the H1N1 Pandemic Should Be Incorporated into Future Planning
GAO-11-632 (June 2011)

Influenza Vaccine: Federal Investments in Alternative Technologies and Challenges to Development and Licensure
GAO-11-435 (June 2011)

Influenza Pandemic: Sustaining Focus on the Nation's Planning and Preparedness Efforts
GAO-09-334 (March 2009)

Public Health and Border Security: HHS and DHS Should Further Strengthen Their Ability to Respond to TB Incidents
GAO-09-58 (October 2008)

Retirement Income Security

Our past work explores the retirement system—especially the fact that many Americans don’t have adequate retirement savings. The economic and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to exacerbate these challenges and further jeopardize financial security for older workers and those who have already retired.

Related Reports


The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the use of telehealth. Our past work highlights some benefits and challenges.

Related Reports

The National Biodefense Strategy

The United States has a National Biodefense Strategy that calls for a joint effort by multiple agencies and private sector partners. It spells out the nation’s plan to prepare for threats like COVID-19. The following reports highlight longstanding challenges and actions needed to address them.

Related Reports

National Biodefense Strategy: Opportunities and Challenges with Early Implementation
GAO-20-483T (Mar 11, 2020)

National Biodefense Strategy: Additional Efforts Would Enhance Likelihood of Effective Implementation
GAO-20-273 (Feb 19, 2020)

Biodefense: The Nation Faces Long-Standing Challenges Related to Defending Against Biological Threats
GAO-19-635T (Jun 26, 2019)

Biological Select Agents and Toxins: Actions Needed to Improve Management of DOD's Biosafety and Biosecurity Program
GAO-18-422 (Sep 20, 2018)

High-Containment Laboratories: Coordinated Actions Needed to Enhance the Select Agent Program's Oversight of Hazardous Pathogens
GAO-18-145 (Oct 19, 2017)

Biodefense: Federal Efforts to Develop Biological Threat Awareness
GAO-18-155 (Oct 11, 2017)

Biological Defense: Additional Information That Congress May Find Useful as It Considers DOD's Advanced Development and Manufacturing Capability
GAO-17-701 (Jul 17, 2017) The FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY version of this report is GAO-17-297SU (May 2017).

Chemical and Biological Defense: DOD Has Identified an Infrastructure Manager and Is Developing the Position's Roles and Responsibilities
GAO-17-522R (Jul 7, 2017)

Air Travel and Communicable Diseases: Comprehensive Federal Plan Needed for U.S. Aviation System's Preparedness
GAO-16-127 (Dec 16, 2015)

Chemical and Biological Defense: Designated Entity Needed to Identify, Align, and Manage DOD's Infrastructure
GAO-15-257 (Jun 25, 2015)

Biological Defense: DOD Has Strengthened Coordination on Medical Countermeasures but Can Improve Its Process for Threat Prioritization
GAO-14-442 (May 15, 2014)

Biosurveillance: Nonfederal Capabilities Should Be Considered in Creating a National Biosurveillance Strategy
GAO-12-55 (Oct 2011)

Unemployment Insurance, Reemployment Services, and Worker Safety

In the past, we’ve reported on challenges to providing employment-related services—which may be exacerbated as states face worker safety concerns and increases in unemployment due to the pandemic.

Related Reports