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Report: Minnesota could improve disclosure of CARES Act assistance spending

(The Center Square) Minnesota neither is an “exemplary state” at disclosing CARES Act assistance spending nor a state that has “inadequate or no disclosure,” a new report from national policy resource center Good Jobs First says.

Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wyoming provide a clear picture of how they spend Coronavirus Relief Fund monies, earning them designation as having “exemplary disclosure,” the report said.

States can use CRF spending for COVID-19-prompted expenditures and costs that were not accounted for in state budgets that occurred between March 2020 and December 2021. They must report CRF expenditures quarterly to the U.S. Treasury and disclose CRF recipients of at least $50,000 and the date and precise amounts of the funding. Thus must assign these awards to one of 18 categories the Treasury Department has listed.

While the Treasury Department shares the data with the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, PRAC website users can only view data from the past quarter.

“That is, even residents in states without a CRF website or one with very little information looking for information still cannot obtain a full accounting of how taxpayer dollars have been spent throughout the pandemic,” the report said.

While Minnesota has a website accounting for these expenditures that is “easily accessible,” lists allocations from agencies to recipients, categorizes the expenditures and provides health and education data, it does not provide descriptions of spending.

Compare that with Alabama. Its website dedicated to CRF has a homepage linking to pages that overview the program and eligible uses, how much was allocated to agriculture and forestry programs, and a page of resources for consistuents.

“But perhaps the most important page on Alabama’s website is a matrix that discloses all state CRF expenditures,” the report said. “The database first allows users to see the CRF budget for each state agency, department, locality, or program and how much of it was spent. It then drills down further, documenting recipients and how much each one received. Most of the recipients disclose which categories those expenditures fall into (i.e., ‘medical,’ ‘workplace safety preparations,’ telework expenses,’ etc.).”

Good Jobs First recommends the U.S. Treasury matches required categories for final CRF quarterly reports with those used for CSLFRF reporting. It also recommends governments receiving both monies be required to have a website landing page that tracks COVID-1 9 spending actions and to post quarterly reports to the U.S. Treasury that are broken down by agency, sub-recipient and vendor. Finally, prime recipients of CRF and CSLRF should highlight education department data.

 

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