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Coronavirus Response and Relief Oversight & Disaster Recovery Oversight

The U.S. Department of Education has been charged with allocating billions of dollars to help States, schools, and students impacted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as well as those affected by the natural disasters in the last several years. These funds look to help schools, school districts, colleges, universities, and other institutions educate their students in these challenging times and return to full capacity when possible. The Office of Inspector General has been charged with ensuring that these vital funds are used as required and reach the intended recipients, and with investigating misuse, theft, and other criminal activity involving these funds.

Coronavirus Response and Relief Aid Oversight

Three measures have been signed into law providing the U.S. Department of Education (ED) with more than $280 billion to assist States, K–12 schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education in meeting their needs and the needs of their students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act (March 2020), the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021-Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (December 2020), and the American Rescue Plan (March 2021). The Office of Inspector General (OIG), as the independent oversight arm of ED, is working to ensure that education-related coronavirus response funds are used as required and reach the intended recipients. We do this by conducting independent audit and other reviews, and by investigating allegations of misuse, theft, and other criminal activity involving these funds.

In April 2020, the OIG released its CARES Act oversight plan (PDF, 2.6MB). It includes our plans for (1) auditing ED and grantee management and spending of coronavirus response funds, (2) examining the effectiveness of relief program, and (3) investigating misuse, theft, and other criminal activity involving these funds. The OIG has also produced a summary (PDF, 1.7M) of the most significant management challenges facing ED related to coronavirus emergency relief and response efforts. Our summary was included in the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee report highlighting the top challenges facing all agencies funded by coronavirus-related legislation

Our oversight efforts are well underway. The table below provides information on the OIG’s coronavirus audit and related review work. This table will be updated regularly, so be sure to check back with us for the latest information.

Coronavirus Response Fraud—Let’s Work Together to Stop It!

Criminals and bad actors are targeting coronavirus response funds, seizing on every opportunity they can in this time of crisis to steal or intentionally misuse this money—including preying on students; schools; and Federal, State, and local government agencies. The OIG, through its Special Investigations Unit, is working to identify and prevent the criminals and bad actors who seek to steal or misuse these funds. The OIG Special Investigations Unit is composed of professional criminal investigators with decades of experience in conducting education-related investigations and stopping education-focused fraud schemes involving Federal education programs. Many of those investigations started with a call to the OIG by a person who suspected fraud. That is how we were able to stop it; and that is why we need you to help identify potential coronavirus fraud by reporting it to the OIG.

What does education-related fraud look like? How do you report it? And how can you help? These materials can help! Click on the links below for our digital booklet, flyer, and posters that provide the answers to these questions and more!

Pandemic Response Accountability Committee

The CARES Act establishes the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), composed of inspectors general from across the Federal government. The PRAC is tasked with conducting, coordinating, and supporting inspectors general in the oversight of trillions of dollars in emergency Federal spending to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act names nine specific agency inspectors general to the PRAC, including ED. Acting Inspector General Sandra D. Bruce is representing the OIG on the PRAC, chairing the PRAC’s subcommittee focused on GAO and State and local oversight efforts, and is a member of the PRAC’s financial sector oversight work group. Visit the PRAC’s website for more information.

Federal-State Coronavirus Task Forces

The OIG is also working with our law enforcement colleagues across the country to stop coronavirus-related fraud perpetrated by those who seek to separate you from your money. This includes participating on Federal-State coronavirus fraud tasks forces. These task forces are working to quickly address fraud complaints and to identify, investigate, and prosecute fraud related to the pandemic. They are looking into unlawful hoarding, price gouging, and a series of scams preying on our nation’s citizens—such as scams involving vaccines, supplies, charities, phishing, apps, and investments. You can find out more about these task forces and read more about the scams and schemes they are stopping via the U.S. Department of Justice coronavirus fraud website.

OIG Coronavirus Response Audit and Related Review Work

Read OIG’s CARES Act Oversight Plan.

Assignment

Objective(s)

Auditee

Work Completed & Underway

Risk of Closed Institutions of Higher Education Receiving Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Grants

The purpose of this report is to share with ED observations made by the OIG concerning institutions of higher education (IHE) that ceased to provide educational instruction in all programs of study (closed) and received or had access to coronavirus response and relief aid through the HEERF. This report includes suggestions to enhance ED’s ability to protect these funds from fraud, waste, and abuse..

ED

05/13/2021
Read the Report (PDF - 3.6M)

Challenges for Consideration in Implementing and Overseeing the CARES Act

Identify challenges that ED may face when implementing and overseeing programs and provisions authorized under the CARES Act.

ED

09/10/2020
Read the Report (PDF - 2.16M)

Schools’ Institutional Expenditures Reporting for Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF)

Assess the reporting of information contained on selected schools’ websites, including whether the information met the reporting requirements the Department established.

ED/Office of Postsecondary Education

02/26/2021
Read the Report (PDF - 2.47M)

Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) Implementation of Temporary Borrower Relief Under the CARES Act—Suspension of Involuntary Collections on Defaulted Student Loans

Evaluate the results of FSA’s process for suspending involuntary collection and refunding payments involuntarily collected on defaulted Federal loan accounts in response to the national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.

FSA

06/15/2021
Read the Report (PDF - 4.23M)

Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund

Determine whether selected States designed and (1) awarding processes that ensured that GEER funds were used to support local educational agencies and institutions of higher education that were most significantly impacted by coronavirus or other education-related entities within the State that were deemed essential for carrying out emergency educational services and (2) monitoring processes that ensured that subgrantees used GEER funds in accordance with CARES Act and other applicable Federal requirements. We plan to issue a series of individual reports on selected States..

Missouri

Oklahoma

Underway

Underway

Institutions of Higher Education Use of Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEER) Funds

Determine whether selected institutions of higher education used the Student Aid and Institutional portions of their HEER funds for allowable and intended purposes.

Remington College

Lincoln College of Technology

Underway


Underway

ED’s Implementation of TEACH Grant Service Obligations Flexibilities

Evaluate ED’s plans/processes to ensure TEACH grantees receive full-time credit toward their service obligations for part-time and temporarily interrupted service due to COVID-19.

ED/Federal Student Aid

Underway

State Plans for Use of Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds

Review States’ GEER funds reporting to determine how they plan to allocate funds to entities within the three authorized categories: (1) local educational agencies, (2) institutions of higher education, and (3) education-related entities and the criteria upon which these decisions were based.

ED/Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

Underway

The Office of Postsecondary Education’s (OPE) Oversight of HEERF Grant Funds

Determine whether OPE has an adequate process in place to ensure that grantees use HEERF grant funds appropriately and performance goals are met.

ED/OPE

Underway

Local Educational Agencies’ (LEA) Uses of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund Grant Funds for Technology

Describe LEAs’ uses of ESSER grant funds for technology purposes.

Selected LEAs

Underway

Disaster Recovery

In 2018 and 2019, Congress passed and the President signed into law measures providing ED with nearly $2.9 billion to assist K–12 schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education in meeting the educational needs of students affected by the hurricanes and wildfires that ravaged a number of States and territories. Congress provided $6 million to the OIG to carry out oversight activities, such as auditing ED and grantee management and spending of disaster recovery funds, examining the effectiveness of recovery programs, and investigating misuse, theft, and other criminal activity involving these funds.

Our work is well underway! Read our completed audits reports and information on our ongoing audit work that you will find in the table below. Be sure to check back with us regularly as we will update these pages with new information.

For information on disaster recovery funding and assistance available through the U.S. Department of Education: https://www.ed.gov/hurricane.

Disaster Recovery Fraud—Report it!
Disasters and recovery efforts provide unique opportunities for corrupt people to line their own pockets with disaster recovery funds. Education recovery funds are not excluded from this criminal phenomenon. That's why OIG criminal investigators are working with our law enforcement partners in disaster-impacted areas to catch the crooks, profiteers, and bad actors. And we need your help to stop them! If you suspect waste, fraud, or abuse involving disaster recovery education funds, let us know! Not sure what the signs of fraud are or how to report it? We can help! Click on this link to learn more: OIG Hotline

Download these free posters that can help you identify and report disaster recovery fraud.

Listen to our two podcast episodes about the OIG's audit and investigative work in support of disaster recovery and how you can help.

Audit AssignmentObjective(s)AuditeeWork Completed & Underway
Temporary Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students (Emergency Impact Aid) Program

The objectives are to determine whether selected State educational agencies established and implemented systems of internal control that ensured that (1) displaced student count data provided to ED were accurate and complete, (2) Emergency Impact Aid program funds were appropriately allocated to local educational agencies, and (3) local educational agencies used Emergency Impact Aid program funds in accordance with applicable Federal requirements.

Texas Education Agency

 

Florida Department of Education

03/06/2020
Read the Report (PDF - 1.42M)

01/28/2021
Read the Report (PDF - 2.37M)

Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations (Restart) Program/ Internal Controls

The objective is to determine whether selected grantees have effectively designed internal controls for the administration of Restart program funds.

Virgin Islands Department of Education

 

Puerto Rico Department of Education

06/04/2019
Read the Report (PDF - 1.42M)

07/17/2019
Read the Report (PDF - 3.62M)

Restart Program

The objectives are to determine whether selected State educational agencies established and implemented systems of internal control that (1) provided reasonable assurance that Restart program funds were appropriately allocated and (2) ensured that local educational agencies and nonpublic schools used Restart program funds for allowable and intended purposes.

Texas Education Agency

 

Florida Department of Education

02/13/2020
Read the Report (PDF - 175M)

09/17/2020
Read the Report (PDF - 1.25M)

ED's Oversight of Disaster Assistance Funding for Institutions of Higher Education

The objective of the audit is to determine whether the Office of Postsecondary Education established and implemented processes that provide reasonable assurance that it awarded and institutions of higher education use disaster assistance program funds in accordance with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 and other Federal requirements.

ED Office of Postsecondary Education

09/30/2020
Read the Report (PDF - 1.26M)

Federal Student Aid's Reallocation of Campus-Based Aid

The objective of the audit is to determine whether Federal Student Aid established and implemented processes that provide reasonable assurance that it reallocated campus-based student financial assistance program funds in accordance with the Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria Education Relief Act of 2017 and other Federal requirements.

Federal Student Aid Office

05/27/2021
Read the Report (PDF - 1.88M)



   
Last Modified: 07/15/2021