(The Center Square) – Oklahoma officials could do a better job of letting the public know how the state is spending funds from the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to a report from the nonprofit Good Jobs First.
The nonprofit analyzed how states were tracking Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) spending and providing information to the public.
CRF relief was provided to states through the CARES Act, which was signed into law in March 2020 by President Donald Trump. The $2.2 trillion package allotted $111.8 billion for emergency assistance to state governments and the District of Columbia.
Six states received high marks for transparency in the report. Oklahoma fell in the middle tier of states that had “some disclosure.”
“Most states recognize the importance of disclosing their CRF-related spending to some extent, and they have created websites and landing pages that track program spending,” the report’s authors said. “While most states disclose some information on CRF spending, like awardee names and allocations to state agencies and programs, their websites often lack details on how awardees in turn spent their funds – which were often paid in large blocks.”
On Oklahoma’s website, a dashboard displays how much money the state received, what groups and organizations received money, including expenses as low as $25, and breaks down the money spent by category. The categories include economic, medical and payroll expenses.
Oklahoma’s largest area of CRF spending was economic expenses, which were $402.33 million, or 33.76%, of all spending. The next largest area of spending was listed as “blank,” which accounts for 21.54% of the total amount. Medical expenses are the state’s third-largest expense.
What the website fails to do, according to the report, is go into detail about how money was spent once it was dolled out to recipients. It also doesn’t list data on education expenditures.
”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’s authors 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.”
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have inadequate or no disclosure at all about how relief money is being spent, according to the report. Eight states and the District of Columbia don’t have a website, according to the report.
States that are the most transparent about CARES Act spending are Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wyoming, according to the report.