Virus Outbreak Georgia Testing

An official guides patients to a COVID-19 testing area on Georgia Tech's campus Monday, April 6, 2020, in Atlanta.

(The Center Square) – Georgia was one of six states classified as having exemplary disclosure of its Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) spending, according to a new report on transparency in CRF spending.

The CRF was established from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The act was signed into law by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 and gave states a total of $111.8 billion to cover COVID-19-related costs.

The report was published by the nonpartisan nonprofit Good Jobs First, a Washington-based policy center that tracks subsidies and promotes accountability.

"Recipient and vendor spending descriptions were of high importance to us, as they give constituents a detailed picture of how CRF money was ultimately spent," the report said. "State pages with this information were treated as examples of good disclosure. States without spending websites or with websites with very little information were considered as poor disclosure."

Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts and Wyoming also were classified as having exemplary disclosure of CRF spending information.

Twenty-seven states were classified as having "some disclosure," or states that disclosed basic information on CRF spending, such as awardee names and allocations to state agencies and programs websites, but still lacked details on how awardees spent their funds.

Seventeen other states and the District of Columbia were classified as having inadequate or no disclosure. According to the report, some have not posted any of the basic information, and others' online CRF data is poorly detailed, hard to find and doesn't enable public engagement.

Georgia received more than $4 billion for its CRF when Congress passed the CARES Act. Georgia's CRF page on the Governor's Office of Budget and Planning website was the first result when researchers searched "Georgia CARES Act spending," and it has links to pages on local and state government spending. Both pages have dashboards that break down spending into several categories.

"The only feature that's missing is the ability to download the data to a spreadsheet," the report said.

The policy center recommended states follow Georgia and other states with exemplary disclosure practices for the other tranches of COVID-19 federal relief aid they have received. The report also called for the U.S. Treasury to revise its required categories for quarterly reports and mandate governments to post quarterly reports to the U.S. Treasury's website broken down by agency, sub-recipient and vendors.

"As we've documented, most states are doing a middling to poor job of disclosing their uses of CARES Act CRF funds," the report said. "Fortunately, they now have a second chance to improve their performance: The American Rescue Plan Act has the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund Program (CSLFRF), which at $350 billion, is far larger than CRF, its CARES Act counterpart."

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.