Chung: The Pandemic Is Challenging the US Government’s Accountability and Transparency

A+masked+demonstrator%2C+holding+an+upside+down+American+flag%2C+faces+Utah+law+enforcement+officers+gathered+in+front+of+the+Utah+State+Capitol+Building+on+June+4th%2C+2020.+%28Photo+by+Mark+Draper+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

A masked demonstrator, holding an upside down American flag, faces Utah law enforcement officers gathered in front of the Utah State Capitol Building on June 4th, 2020. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Stacy Chung, Social Media Manager, Opinion Writer

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously affected our economy and society. Over 45 million people have filed initial unemployment claims in the U.S. since mid-March and experts expect a 5.2% decrease of the global economy this year. New York Times columnist David Brooks has said that “we’re looking at possible really serious and long economic recession or depression. We’re losing the battle against COVID.”

What’s more, experts forecast the pandemic will last 18 to 24 months in total, with a second wave likely approaching. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned Americans not to get ahead of themselves, since the U.S. is still in the throes of its first wave of the virus.

Over 54,357 new infection cases were reported on July 1 alone, which is above the average daily case count over the past six months. These numbers, along with a lack of transparency over the course of this crisis, are testing Americans’ confidence in the federal government.

The government’s inadequate response to the coronavirus outbreak has clearly worsened the spread of the virus. Our government’s downplaying and denial of experts’ warnings prior to the crisis wasted precious time that could have been spent to educate and prepare us for the coming pandemic. Instead, we were advised to believe in a sugar-coated lie that the problem would resolve itself.

By the time the Trump administration realized the gravity of the pandemic, it was far too late – especially for a healthcare system already suffering from “preexisting deficiencies.”

“We’ve had to deal with budget cut after budget cut,” said A. Scott Lockard, director of the Kentucky River District Health Department, whose healthcare workers have had to share job duties and protective equipment. A shortage of N95 respirator masks in the Strategic National Stockpile also revealed how miserably unprepared for the pandemic the U.S. was.

The U.S. has also struggled in terms of its economic response to this crisis, demonstrating a lack of transparency in the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration. These agencies are the ultimate overseers of the $2 trillion economic stabilization package intended to support small businesses and local governments through what has become a full-blown depression. However, the new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee recently flagged the funding for a “lack of accountability and transparency,” reporting that the money was being delivered to recipients “without agreements or terms and conditions establishing requirements for the use of funds and reporting on such uses, among other things.”

A similar problem emerged with the Paycheck Protection Program, where the two agencies’ lack of transparency and feeble reporting requirements have allowed the funds to be delivered to bigger businesses, such as Shake Shack, that don’t need the money. PPP was designed to support small businesses that lack resources to pay their business expenses such as payroll, employee benefits and utilities. But the fact that large corporations like Shake Shack can be eligible to receive $10 million from the program has alerted the public’s concern for the government’s lack of transparency.

According to a May poll, 54% of American citizens feel that the federal government has done a poor job of preventing the spread of COVID-19 – an 11-point increase from March. A separate poll shows a growing disapproval of President Trump’s response to the virus, with 56.3% of Americans disapproving as of July 2.

It’s been six months. We’ve had plenty of time for a trial-and-error in coping with the new virus and the pandemic. Government officials, including the president, must stop hiding information and misleading the public. Instead, the government should prepare the country for a long-term battle with the virus by increasing their own transparency and accountability, listening to experts and learning from their mistakes, because lives depend on it.

 

[email protected]

@StacyChung_