Everybody loves a good botch story, but not necessarily when it comes to the federal government. Everyone makes mistakes, but when the feds do it, and it totals more than $73 million in taxpayer dollars, people are sure to take notice. Recently, it was divulged that the Department of Education accidentally sent duplicate stimulus funds to some colleges, drawing criticism from many.
Inside Higher Ed reported on this finding earlier this week. The accident was reported in a publication directly from the Education department’s Office of the Inspector General. The stimulus funds, directed to colleges through emergency pandemic relief funding were wrongly sent twice to 24 colleges.
For nearly a year, this incident went on seemingly unnoticed. The report quickly made note, however, that no one was at fault saying it was merely a processing error. However, it wasn’t just one mistake that sent millions of dollars in stimulus funds to some colleges, but multiple.
Of the errors, some were said to have occurred when a few colleges accidentally sent in multiple requests for the stimulus funds. Of the 24 colleges, 15 submitted two applications to the program. The other nine were simply a mistake in processing made by the federal department, where they were processed twice.
Given that the report says that there was no apparent foul play and that the colleges were not at fault for this error, the publication did not list the names of the specific colleges that received the duplicate stimulus funds. The report did, however, address how the Department of Education will rectify the error. These colleges won’t simply get a freebie but will have to pay it back in some form. The feds will either reduce the college’s grant award by the same amount, authorize the college to use the funds under a different approved subcategory, or reduce funding through another program – the American Rescue plan award. Only eight of the colleges had already drawn from the duplicate funds.
Drawing criticism, some are wondering how it took so long for this accident to have been discovered. Some of the duplicate stimulus funds were handed out nearly 16 months ago, depending on the subcategory of the award duplicated. Interestingly, the Office of the Inspector General made note that the postsecondary education office responsible for shelling out the money reported no evidence of the error in any of their records.
Despite the reason for this error, it has led the Inspectors office and the education office to agree that further procedures need to be implemented to ensure something like this does not happen again. What exactly that will look like for now, remains unknown. However, what is known is that this incident will likely create more backlash from Americans already upset at how the government has been shelling out stimulus funds.
These stimulus funds were sent to the public, businesses, K-12 schools, and higher education institutes during the pandemic to keep struggling systems afloat. But as funds are being spent, and many schools continue to report losses and a need for more money, many are criticizing the move, wondering if leaders were misappropriating the funds.