(The Center Square) – Maryland was ranked toward the bottom of a report for not detailing how federal CARES Act dollars are being allocated within the state.
Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based public policy organization, released a report, “Federal Dollars, States’ Recoveries,” and placed Maryland in a group of 17 other states for not having a centralized portal for tracking how the first wave of pandemic-induced relief funds have been used.
The report only zeroed in on former President Donald Trump’s $2.2 trillion CARES Act and its outgrowth of the Coronavirus Relief Fund. The legislation provided $150 billion in emergency assistance to states, municipalities and other governing bodies at the height of the pandemic.
In Maryland, $1.65 billion went toward state government, and an additional $69 million was appropriated to local communities.
While Maryland and other states are required to furnish quarterly reports to federal authorities, Good Jobs First is criticizing it and others in its bottom-ranking category for not offering up real-time reports to taxpayers through a dedicated website.
States’ reports are compiled and reported through a portal, Pandemic Oversight, that is an official website of the U.S. Government as a part of the quarterly requirement.
“Expecting all states to have websites that are easily accessible to residents and give thorough descriptions of CRF activities is a minimal expectation, given that they are already collecting this information to comply with the reporting requirements established by the U.S. Treasury,” Katie Furtado of Good Jobs First wrote in the report.
In its state-by-state analysis, Furtado and other researchers within the organization analyzed seven criteria, including ease in access of a website, a compilation of agency and fund allocations, names of recipients and spending descriptions.
Maryland did not check any of the boxes in the report.
A casual search of how some of Maryland’s CARES Act dollars are being appropriated did yield scattered results from specific agencies, some choosing to make announcements through news releases.
For example, a year ago, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced $6 million of the federal funding source was being appropriated to the Howard County Public School System to offset expenses related to COVID-19.
In the report, Good Jobs First is calling on the U.S. Treasury to change some of its existing reporting categories to encourage more thorough reporting, particularly as the next wave of ARPA funding allocations come to light. The organization also is suggesting dedicated websites for each state.
“We recommend that legislators go one step further with ARPA and require that each locality … establish a website or landing page that posts their spending activities,” Furtado wrote.
In addition to Maryland, states with “inadequate or no disclosure” included Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington state and Washington, D.C.
Six states were cited as “exemplary” for having dedicated websites and furnishing detailed reports on how the funds were used: Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wyoming.