Democrats Say COVID Relief Money Is Going to Corporations Without Real Oversight

Kamala Harris and Katie Porter are concerned there’s no one in charge of policing the process.

Erin Scott/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

As part of its sweeping coronavirus relief package enacted in March, Congress allotted $500 billion to help stabilize businesses and local governments suffering from the economic crisis. But two Democratic lawmakers are concerned that the Treasury Department is allocating these funds to corporations without meaningful oversight, since the body that’s supposed to govern the process remains leaderless.

“The American people deserve rigorous and thoughtful oversight of this taxpayer-funded relief to American businesses and industries hurt by the 2019 novel coronavirus,” Rep. Katie Porter and Sen. Kamala Harris, both from California, wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to congressional leadership. 

The majority of the billions of dollars allotted by the CARES Act for economic stabilization come with few restrictions on how they are spent. The law tasked the Treasury Department with overseeing the distribution of these funds and creating administrative rules to govern the specifics of who receives the funds and what they may be used for. The department’s handling of the funds has already encountered some criticism, after a May report found that in the two months following the CARES Act’s passage, only $37.5 of the $500 billion had been spent. More spending, however, is on the horizon, after Treasury created a number of programs to distribute more of these funds, including one focused on giving loans to small and mid-sized businesses.

The group in charge of policing that spending, however, is still leaderless. The CARES Act created a five-member Congressional Oversight Commission to oversee how the $500 billion was being spent. It required House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to agree on a person to chair the commission. After more than two months, Pelosi and McConnell have yet to make an appointment. Porter and Harris contend in their letter that this lack of leadership has stymied the commission’s mandate to check up on how the relief funds are being used. The pair note that for the commission to act on the authorities assigned to it by Congress—such as holding hearings—a majority of the commission must vote to move forward. But the commission currently has only four members, so reaching a majority may prove difficult.

“Until the Commission has a Chairperson, taxpayers are funding a bailout without the mandated accountability,” their letter notes.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.