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Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expedite staffing for pandemic recovery watchdog

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators led by Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today introduced legislation to boost oversight of trillions in taxpayer funded pandemic relief by helping the special watchdog quickly onboard critical oversight staff. The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Expedited Hiring Authority Act allows the office to bypass the lengthy government hiring process to so it can quickly ramp up oversight operations. The bill is cosponsored by Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

“Trillions in taxpayer dollars are headed out the door to help our nation respond to and recover from this pandemic, so we have a duty to make sure it gets to those in need and is used as intended. This bill helps the special inspector general quickly build its team so it can hit the ground running. We can’t let bureaucratic delays drag out with some much hard-earned taxpayer dollars on the line,” Grassley said.

“The SIGPR will oversee the reporting and auditing requirements of the law, and it is critical that we quickly provide this individual with necessary staff and resources so that important oversight work can begin immediately, once confirmed,” Crapo said.

“Congress created the Office of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery because independent, comprehensive oversight is essential as the administration distributes trillions of dollars of desperately needed funding for public health and economic recovery. Our bipartisan bill helps ensure that the Office of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery can swiftly hire staff and conduct oversight, and I hope that it will be quickly passed into law. Now more than ever, we need to work together to protect the independence of Inspectors General and ensure that they have the resources they need to conduct vital oversight,” Hassan said.

“Congress’ job is not only to provide the necessary resources to respond to and recover from the COVID pandemic, but also to make sure federal funding is being spent properly and effectively. This is why I am pleased to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to streamline the formation and hiring for the newly created Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery. We must continue to be good stewards of federal resources and this new office will help to do just that,” Booker said.

The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Expedited Hiring Authority Act expedites the office’s hiring and contracting authority, and allows it to use volunteers and detailees from other government agencies. It also waives penalties for re-hiring former government employees who are receiving a government pension, incentivizing retired employees with the needed experience and training to return to service.

Congress passed similar legislation to expedite hiring for previous special inspectors general. The legislation is backed by several good-government advocates, including Project on Government Oversight, Taxpayers Against Fraud, Government Accountability Project and the National Whistleblower Center.