There are universal lessons learned during ARRA that apply across all Federal grant programs and grantees. Join us for our upcoming webinar on May 7, 2020: “What can we learn from ARRA audits?” – You can register here.
Just as the New Deal introduced an “alphabet soup” of new programs, so does the CARES Act. The last time the country passed such a massive relief package was a decade ago, when the Recovery Act addressed the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We might all recall how the lawmakers compared the Recovery Act to the New Deal, feeling that history repeats itself in remarkable ways. The Recovery Act’s total cost was $840 billion. The New Deal cost $41.7 billion at that time, translating into $653 billion today. CARES Act appropriations dwarf both these: over $2 trillion dollars. The timing is accelerated as well. The New Deal lasted for almost a decade. ARRA was about 19 months; the CARES Act involves a huge amount of funds being spent in just a year.
The CARES Act brings unprecedented support to address the pandemic. At the same time, however, acceptance of the benefits of CARES Act funding comes with significant obligations. The accountability and oversight provisions in the CARES Act are comparable to those in ARRA and other pieces of significant legislation like the Affordable Care Act. Grantees that do not take adequate steps to comply with CARES Act legal requirements could have quite an audit “headache” in the years ahead as was the case with ARRA. ARRA audits continued long after grantees had spent their funds and forgotten about the economic collapse of 2008.