New GAO Report Details Trump Administration’s Failed Coronavirus Response

Jan 28, 2021
Press Release
Prior Administration Failed to Close “Critical Gaps” in Medical Supply Chain, “Fell Short of Expectations” on Vaccines, and Created High Risk of Fraud

Washington, D.C. (January 28, 2020) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, issued the following statement following a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Trump Administration’s failed response to the coronavirus pandemic and refusal to heed the watchdog’s repeated warnings:

 

“Today’s alarming report from the Government Accountability Office provides further confirmation of what the Select Subcommittee’s investigations have made clear:  the previous Administration’s coronavirus response failed across the board, exacerbating the pandemic’s toll of death, disease, and economic harm.  The report illustrates how the response was ineffective, lacking a ‘comprehensive’ testing strategy and failing to address medical supply shortages; inefficient, bungling the initial stages of vaccine distribution; and inequitable, failing to protect workers and leaving federal relief programs ‘vulnerable to significant risk of fraudulent activities.’  Perhaps most disturbingly, today’s report reveals that even after GAO made 27 different recommendations aimed at improving the response, the Trump Administration failed to implement them.” 

 

“Fortunately, the Biden Administration is already taking a dramatically different approach by leading a strong national response to the coronavirus crisis, consistent with the recommendations of GAO and the Select Subcommittee.  While the pandemic will continue to kill thousands of Americans each day and prevent the full resumption of normal economic activity for some time to come—costing more lives and livelihoods as a result of the failures laid out in today’s report—the federal government is finally taking the steps necessary to begin bringing this crisis to an end.”

 

Today’s GAO report includes the following findings, among others:

 

  • Vaccine Distribution “Fell Short of Expectations.”  GAO found that vaccine distribution and administration fell short of expectations set by the Trump Administration for the end of 2020.  The Trump Administration failed to heed GAO’s recommendation to develop a national coronavirus vaccine distribution plan “that focused on coordination and communication” and established “a time frame for documenting and sharing a national plan for distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccine.”  GAO emphasized, “Vaccine implementation requires federal leadership and coordination among federal agencies and key partners, including commercial entities, jurisdictions, and providers to allocate, distribute, and ultimately administer vaccines to individuals across the country.”

 

  • Trump Administration Failed to Address Supply Shortages.  GAO wrote:  “We remain deeply troubled that agencies have not acted on our recommendations to more fully address critical gaps in the medical supply chain.”  The report highlighted “the importance of developing a well-formulated plan to address critical gaps for the remainder of the pandemic, especially in light of the recent surge in cases.”

 

  • Fraud in Corporate Relief Programs.  GAO wrote that “[f]ederal relief programs remain vulnerable to significant risk of fraudulent activities,” and highlighted “concerns about the possibility that improper payments, including those resulting from fraudulent activity, could be widespread” across the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL).  GAO found that the “EIDL program faces fraud and contains loans to ineligible entities” and noted that its investigations of both programs were hindered by the Trump Administration’s failure to fully cooperate.  SBA did not provide GAO with detailed documentation on its oversight plans for PPP, and SBA has not provided GAO “with a documented fraud risk assessment to include fraud risk tolerance for EIDL.”

 

  • Trump Administration Failed to Protect Workers.  Today’s report states that “GAO identified concerns about federal oversight of worker safety and health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”  Specifically, “gaps in OSHA’s oversight and tracking of its adapted enforcement methods prevent the agency from assessing the effectiveness of its enforcement methods during the pandemic, ensuring that its adapted enforcement methods do not miss violations, and ensuring that employers are addressing certain identified violations.”  The report also found that due to the Trump Administration’s failure to collect adequate data, OSHA “is missing critical information on COVID-19 risks to workers to inform its enforcement activities.”  

 

GAO’s report is consistent with the Select Subcommittee’s finding in an October 30, 2020, staff report that the Trump Administration’s failed response to the pandemic exacerbated the nation’s public health and economic crises.

 

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117th Congress