Democratic legislators introduce COVID Whistleblower Protection Act
This article features our Legal Director Tom Devine and was originally published here.
To guard against waste, fraud, and abuse, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Representatives Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), recently introduced the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act to establish strong whistleblower protections for the employees of entities that receive federal COVID-19 relief funds.
According to the bill, the multi-trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief effort is unprecedented in the nation’s history, and this legislation would ensure protections for whistleblowers guarding against corruption. In a one-pager describing the bill, the legislators wrote, “Unfortunately, all too often employees who come forward to report wrongdoing experience retaliation.”
“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. That is why I am glad to reintroduce the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act-to establish strong whistleblower protections for workers who speak up and help us root out waste, fraud, and abuse,”wrote Sen. Warren in a press release.
“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,” said Rep. Speier, co-chair of the bipartisan Whistleblower Protection Caucus, in a recent statement. “The COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act will ensure employees who come forward to report wrongdoing related to the pandemic can do so with confidence that the law is on their side.”
“As the COVID-19 pandemic devastates lives and livelihoods across the nation, our people desperately need the financial aid provided by the CARES Act and other pandemic response bills,”stated Rep. Raskin. “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. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation so we can tell potential whistleblowers we have their backs when they bravely speak up for America’s taxpayers and all those so badly hurt by COVID-19.”
In addition to instituting stronger legal whistleblower protections for employees who work for entities that receive COVID-19 relief funds, the bill seeks to give whistleblowers access to jury trials in federal court while protecting whistleblower confidentiality and protecting against gag orders.
This legislation is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). In the last Congress, then-Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) introduced the bill.
The legislation is also cosponsored by Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
“Hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars in spending spotlight a fundamental truth. The COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act is just what the doctor ordered for accountability of stimulus spending programs, whether the funding is to save lives or saves businesses. Inspectors General credit whistleblower protection in the 2009 stimulus bill for minimizing fraud, waste, and abuse when the government injected hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy. Now that the government is injecting trillions, whistleblowers are more essential than ever as the human factor that is America’s best weapon against corruption,” said Tom Devine, Legal Director, Government Accountability Project.