Report: Oklahoma’s Spending of $1.2B In Federal Relief ‘Lacked Structure And Clarity’


Wednesday, February 3rd 2021, 7:33 pm
By: Barry Mangold


OKLAHOMA CITY -

A financial oversight group made up of state lawmakers released a draft report Wednesday night critiquing how the executive branch spent about $1.26 billion in federal pandemic relief funds. 

In May, the U.S. government issued the funds, passed through the CARES Act, to Oklahoma to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The money was allocated by the CARES FORWARD team, which is led by state COO John Budd and made up of other members of the executive branch. 

The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) reviewed how the CARES FORWARD team spend the money for four months. 

Transparency was among the top issues, according to the report. 

“To date, CARES FORWARD has not provided a single complete set of documentation for any project funded with Coronavirus Relief Funds,” the report states on page four. 

The report states the executive branch did not provide any supporting documents for projects that received more than $100 million in CARES funds. It also states some of the spending may not meet federal guidelines, which could result in Oklahoma having to pay the money back. 

The CARES FORWARD team also missed opportunities to funds the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, COVID-19 testing, and contact tracing, the report states on page 7. 

“There is no doubt, Oklahomans have been hurting over the past year, and I believe there must be transparency in how the funds were used to address the health and economic needs of the citizens of Oklahoma,” said LOFT Co-Chair and Sen. Roger Thompson, R- Okemah. “Transparency is our only goal.”  

Lawmakers will discuss the report tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Gov. Kevin Stitt established the CARES FORWARD team when Oklahoma was allocated the $1.26 Billion in May. 

“Legislative oversight of spending is a critical government function, and we are happy to continue working with our partners in the Oklahoma House and Senate as they fulfill their Constitutional duties,” said a spokesperson for Stitt’s office. 

“We look forward to meeting with the LOFT Legislative Oversight Committee to discuss our concerns with the current LOFT process.” 

This is a story News 9's Barry Mangold is tracking tonight, and he'll have a report on News 9 at 10.