The U.S. House Committee on Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing, “Holding the Biden Administration Accountable for Wasteful Spending and Regulatory Overreach,” on March 8. The hearing examined the role of the Federal Reserve, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in regulating the financial services industry, with a focus on the oversight and regulation of pandemic relief programs.
Witnesses for the hearing included Mark Bialek, inspector general for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the CFPB; Richard Delmar, acting inspector general for the Treasury; and Rebecca Sharek, deputy inspector general for audits, evaluations, and special projects for the SEC.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Al Green (D-TX) cited in his opening remarks the necessity of providing emergency rental assistance (ERA) and other direct assistance to households during the pandemic, stating he would “focus on the good done by putting the American people above politics during the pandemic. This was done by…keeping people in homes, with [funding] for emergency rental assistance to 6.5 million households.”
Subcommittee Chair Bill Huizenga (R-MI) asked Acting Inspector General Delmar about reports of improper payments in ERA distribution. Mr. Delmar responded by drawing a distinction between “improper payments” and “fraud,” nothing that, while fraud is a type of improper payment, not all improper payments are fraud. Mr. Delmar stated that complications involved in setting up ERA programs – including the delayed release of guidance – led to confusion among both applicants and administrators about eligibility requirements, which created opportunities for ineligible people to receive assistance.
An emergency COVID-19 relief bill enacted with bipartisan support in December 2020 provided $25 billion in ERA, and the “American Rescue Plan Act,” enacted in March 2021, allocated another $21.55 billion for ERA programs. This funding was provided in response to advocates warning of a potential “eviction tsunami” that put an estimated 30-40 million people at risk of eviction as a result of COVID-19-related job and income loss. Since then, more than 500 ERA programs across the country have provided almost $34 billion in ERA to an estimated 6.5 million households, ensuring they were able to keep roofs over their heads during a pandemic that required people to remain home in an effort to reduce the threat to public health.
Learn more about ERA at: https://nlihc.org/era-dashboard
Watch a recording of the hearing and read witness testimonies at: https://bit.ly/3Jtbyc4