WASHINGTON, DC (July 19, 2021) – The Delta variant’s spread across the nation illustrates that a full recovery from the pandemic remains fragile. The Government Accountability Office released its seventh comprehensive report today examining COVID relief under the CARES Act. While the vaccines and other measure have brought many positive developments, there is still important work to be done.
The report includes 15 new recommendations for applying lessons learned from the COVID pandemic to ensure that the nation improves its response to the current pandemic and is ready for future public health emergencies.
GAO is recommending that Health and Human Services (HHS) improve transparency over tens of billions of dollars in unspent relief funds and the Office of Management and Budget and Department of Treasury issue timely guidance for audits of hundreds of billions in state and local COVID relief funds. To improve future pandemic response, GAO is recommending that CDC work with appropriate stakeholders to develop a plan to enhance surge capacity for laboratory testing.
“While continuing to get “shots in arms” remains a priority for the federal government, other important steps are needed as well to ensure the economy and the nation can fully rebound from the pandemic and be prepared for the future,” said Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO. “For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that improving the federal process for developing infectious disease testing and increasing laboratory capacity should be a top priority.”
GAO is again urging immediate action to help improve the government’s ongoing response efforts. In previous related reports, GAO made 72 recommendations, 16 of which have already been fully implemented. Agencies agreed with 57 of the recommendations, and most are in the process of being implemented. GAO also raised four matters for congressional consideration where congressional action is needed.
A key open recommendation from January 2021 is related to the personal protective equipment supply chain. Before the pandemic began, the U.S. generally relied on foreign suppliers for personal protective equipment like nitrile gloves and surgical gowns. Stakeholders representing manufacturers, distributors, and purchasers have noted that more engagement with the federal government could help increase domestic manufacturing and supply chains. GAO recommended that HHS develop a strategy for engagement with private stakeholders, and Congress. HHS agreed. As of May 2021, that recommendation has not yet been implemented.
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