Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, on Thursday helped introduce a bill to the House of Representatives that aims to protect whistleblowers working for agencies receiving COVID-19 relief funds.
The COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act — co-introduced by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts — would explicitly prohibit reprisal against whistleblowers who disclose misuse or mismanagement of COVID-19 relief funds.
The protections offered by the bill extend to anyone working for an agency which received any kind of funds meant to address the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes frontline workers and government contractors.
“Whistleblowers are truth tellers, serving as a moral compass and saving American taxpayers billions of dollars each year. We must always protect those who have the courage to come forward to uncover waste, fraud, and abuse, and especially during the pandemic,” Speier said in a press release.
The lawmakers noted that those who work for organizations receiving and using COVID-19 relief funds are the people best situated to uncover waste or mismanagement.
The bill would also create a legal framework in which the U.S. Department of Labor could investigate whistleblower retaliation claims.
“We cannot afford to have these precious relief dollars swept up by scammers, conmen and cheats. We must give real protection to whistleblowers who are brave enough to speak out when they see our tax dollars being misused or stolen,” Raskin said.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, and the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, are two examples of federal funding which whistleblowers could report their organization misusing.
The bill was co-sponsored by 20 other House members and 14 senators, including Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Walnut Creek, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein. It was also endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“As our government and communities work together to tackle COVID-19, the American people must have confidence that federal relief dollars serve their intended purposes and don’t fall into the hands of profiteers,” Warren said.