Protect public trust with the next stimulus
It’s no secret that the first COVID-19 relief plan signed in March 2020, known as the CARES Act, was a major undertaking for government agencies at all levels. And while the deployment of this first round of aids was a remarkable success, it was not smooth. As when an independent government watchdog reported that the federal government mistakenly sent nearly $ 1.4 billion to deceased people. Having learned from the challenges of the first stimulus bill, the new administration is determined to renew public confidence in its institutions in times of crisis. So how can state and local government agencies help protect public trust while managing the next stimulus?
What went wrong the last time?
To avoid letting history repeat itself, state and local government leaders must examine and learn from their past mistakes. Of course, the most obvious challenge was the immediate need to adapt to new security procedures and comply with local lockdown and stay home orders. This drastic change alone would be enough to cause mistakes and delays, but combined with the unprecedented rise in jobless claims and billions of dollars in funding that suddenly had to be dispersed, it was inevitable that mistakes would be made.
For example, in the case of stimulus checks sent to deceased persons, the Government Accountability Office found that the IRS and the Treasury Department relied on old stimulus payment procedures that do not filter payments through death records provided by the Social Security Administration. Changing that system and checking every name against the records would likely delay all checks, and they were specifically tasked by the CARES Act to release the stimulus payments “as quickly as possible.”
In another case, a team of crooks in Huston, Texas could have stolen $ 16 million in COVID-19 relief funds from the Paycheck Protection Program using fraudulent apps and fake IDs. Although they were eventually taken, their initial success was cleared by banks which failed to detect deviations from public records. This failure was most likely due to the fact that checking all the necessary databases would take a long time and they were under massive pressure to get loans approved quickly. The common thread between these cases is the need for rapid work in the face of unprecedented circumstances.
What will be different this time around?
While this is a new stimulus bill, it will work and roll out very similarly, meaning that this time around, many of the initial wrinkles have been ironed out. This time, the emphasis will not be on speed, but on precision. And now, many agencies have adapted to the situation and are ready to handle a new influx of work.
The latest federal stimulus bill, known as the American Rescue Plan Act, includes approximately $ 350 billion in tax relief for state and local agencies, and millions more for programs that will be administered by these. same agencies. This significant financial aid will surely become a target for those who seek to defraud the government for their own gain. Especially since they know this will likely be the last opportunity for potential scammers to blend in with the crowd of people who really need support.
What actions can state and local government agencies take?
While much of the work related to the ARP Act will be handled at the federal level, state and local government agencies still have an important role to play in protecting public confidence in our institutions. Here are some steps agencies can take to help manage every dollar in funding:
- Obtain access to all available public documents. This means making sure you have easy access to all of the most up-to-date public records that may be needed to properly manage stimulus funds, and investing in solutions that can help you organize that information.
- Don’t trust Google and social media. If you or your team regularly turn to popular internet search tools like Google, or browse profiles on Facebook, stop. Your results will be inconsistent at best. Think about the information you are trying to find and the public records that may contain it. This will save you time and be more consistent from case to case.
- Look for known associates. Don’t just stop at the first name you are given in each case. Think creatively about who else might be associated with that person, and take the time to dig a little deeper. You might find that even if the first name you verify is correct, the people they interact with are not.
- Take the time to improve your efficiency. If your team is still struggling to keep up with the workload, consider how you can streamline your processes without cutting important milestones. Establish a unified workflow with step-by-step instructions. In the long run, taking the time to create specific guidelines can help avoid mistakes that hurt your efficiency and public trust.
CLEAR can help you
An important part of the ARP law is devoted to helping state and local governments obtain the resources necessary to adequately support their communities. This includes investing in tools that can improve the accuracy and efficiency of their vital work. Thomson Reuters CLEAR provides national and local agencies with the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available in one tool. It can also help with all of the action items above. Use the money from the new bill to invest in a tool that will help your organization protect public trust.
To see how CLEAR can help your team protect public trust, sign up for a free demo.
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