Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
The Treasury Department has yet to disburse any of the $46 billion in funds to the airline industry contained in the massive coronavirus relief package approved in March, according to a Congressional Oversight Commission report released Monday.
The report released Monday is the first from the Congressional Oversight Commission, which was created under the CARES Act to keep tabs on the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve — and the historic $2.2 trillion in overall funding in the bill.
The package provided $500 billion to the Treasury to help support and stabilize the economy by lending and providing liquidity to businesses and local and state governments. Of that, $46 billion was set aside for the airline industry.
While that program was controversial, according to the report, “the Treasury has not disbursed any of the $46 billion it can use to provide loans and loan guarantees to the airline industry and businesses critical to maintaining national security.”
The report noted that the initial deadline for the airline industry to apply for loans was April 17, while the initial deadline for businesses “critical to maintaining national security” was May 1.
“The Treasury has received applications for these loans and is in the process of reviewing them,” the report stated. “The Treasury has not yet made any loans to the airline industry and businesses critical to national security under these applications.”
The report did note, however, that the Treasury “has issued grants and loans to the airline industry under the Payroll Support Program” which was also established under the CARES Act.
Meanwhile, the report detailed the extent of the economic devastation being inflicted as a result of lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus. The report said that “more than one quarter of the U.S. economy has been idled—a fall in output equivalent to what occurred between 1929 and 1933 during the Great Depression.”
The report stated that “many industries have been particularly hard-hit,” noting that retail sales in March fell by $46.2 billion, which the commission said is an amount “almost equal to the entire decline over the full 16 months of the Great Recession.” The report also noted that retail fell by $79.6 billion in April.
The commission highlighted that “lower-income workers and people of color have suffered an outsized blow.” The report cited a Federal Reserve survey, which found that 40 percent of those in households making less than $40,000 a year had lost a job in March; and another survey from Pew Research Center which found that black and Hispanic respondents “were more likely than white respondents to say that they or someone in their family had been laid off or taken a cut in pay because of the COVID-19 crisis.”
The commission includes Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., and former Warren adviser Bharat Ramamurti. The commission’s chairperson has not been appointed yet.
The commission is one of several entities created for oversight of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has appointed Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., to lead the separate House Coronavirus Oversight panel. Pelosi said the committee was designed to address the “here and now,” specifically concerning the allocation of the historic amount of federal funds directed to the economic recovery.
Also, last month, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced their intention to create a 9/11-style commission, set to launch in February 2021 “hopefully after the pandemic has been overcome and after the presidential election.”
That commission would be granted subpoena power to compel cooperation from federal, state and local government officials, as it examines government preparedness in advance of the pandemic. Republicans have raised concerns about the intent of that committee.
The CARES Act also created the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has appointed Robert Westbrooks to lead.
Horowitz has announced the launch of a website to track the trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief spending and “promote transparency” in the federal response.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.