How to make sure corporations don’t plunder federal COVID-19 relief from your city and state

Last week, I spoke at an GovExec event about fighting fraud, waste, and abuse in government contracting, and it got me thinking.

State and local governments will get $350 billion in federal COVID-19 relief over the next year. How do we make sure that money is invested in our communities rather than ending up in the hands of corporations and the ultra-wealthy?

There’s already a much-needed string attached. A last-minute provision added to the American Rescue Plan back in March prevents the funds from subsidizing new tax cuts. 

That’s really good. Decades of slashing government spending and cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy made us less prepared for the COVID-19 crisis. And it’s making it harder for us to modernize our infrastructure to combat climate change.

But what about privatization? What if state and local governments use the money to hire contractors rather than public workers? What if they partner with corporations or private equity firms—like Prince George’s County in Maryland is doing to build new public schools?

We’ll be keeping an eye on that—but we need your help.

Let us know if your town or state is talking about contracting out or signing a “public-private partnership” to build a new road, transit system, or some other piece of infrastructure.

These resources will help you know what to look out for:

And if you’re part of an organization, send a public comment to the federal government about how the money should be spent.

We need to be loud and clear that funding should prioritize households and public investments, not corporations—unless there are clear benefits to workers, especially people who are currently unemployed and those from Black and Brown communities.

Photo by Senate Democrats.