October 4, 2022

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Alabama Man Sentenced to 160 Years of Imprisonment for Soliciting Videos and Webcam Shows of Filipina Children Being Sexually Abused

24 min read
A federal judge sentenced an Alabama man today to 160 years’ imprisonment for using internet applications to seek images and live transmissions of the violent sexual abuse of Filipina children as young as five years old.

More from: March 4, 2022

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  • Justice Department Announces Closing of Investigation into 2014 Officer Involved Shooting in Cleveland, Ohio
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    The Justice Department announced today that the career prosecutors reviewing the independent federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice on Nov. 22, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio, found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges against Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback.  Yesterday the department notified counsel for Mr. Rice’s family of the decision and today sent a letter to Mr. Rice’s family explaining the findings of the investigation and reasons for the decision.

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  • Financial Services Industry: Factors Affecting Careers for Women with STEM Degrees
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Several factors affect women’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degree programs and subsequent careers in the financial services industry, according to research and stakeholders GAO interviewed. These factors include young girls’ early exposure to STEM topics, access to resources such as computers and high-speed internet, and a sense of whether they belong in STEM degree programs. Women’s interest in a financial services career also may be affected by the presence of role models and awareness of job opportunities. In recent years, women have represented roughly 30 percent of financial services industry workers with STEM degrees (see figure). Financial Services Industry Workers with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) by Gender, Fiscal Years 2014-2019 To encourage elementary and high school girls to learn about STEM, selected financial services firms provide funding and other support to nonprofit organizations that focus on increasing girls’ participation in STEM. With this support, nonprofit organizations introduce girls to coding, basic programming, and other activities that may inspire interest in STEM education. Similarly, to encourage college women to pursue STEM degrees, selected firms sponsor conferences for women in STEM, offer scholarships to women studying STEM, and work with nonprofit organizations to help increase students’ awareness of careers in the financial services industry. Selected financial services firms recruit women with STEM degrees by collaborating with organizations that work with women STEM majors and sponsoring conferences for women in technology, among other efforts. Some firms have employee retention practices that are tailored to women with STEM expertise. For example, selected firms offer leadership training or employee resource groups for women in technology. Why GAO Did This Study The financial services industry is highly dependent on technology and more than one-fifth of industry employees have STEM degrees. Women continue to be underrepresented in management positions in the financial services industry and in STEM degree programs. As a result, some financial services firms have made efforts to promote interest among women in both STEM and financial services. GAO was asked to review factors affecting financial services careers for women with STEM degrees. This report examines (1) factors that affect the participation of women in STEM degree programs and subsequent participation in financial services careers, (2) how selected financial services firms encourage girls and women to participate in STEM education programs, and (3) how selected financial services firms recruit and retain women with STEM backgrounds. GAO analyzed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Education data from 2014 through 2018 and Census Bureau data from 2014 through 2019. At the time of analysis, these were the most recent data available. GAO also reviewed studies on financial services and STEM education. GAO interviewed representatives of financial services firms, industry associations, and nonprofit organizations. GAO selected organizations and representatives based on their participation in previous work and a literature review. EEOC and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System provided technical comments on a draft that GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley at (202) 512-8678 or CackleyA@gao.gov.

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  • Harvard University Professor Charged with Tax Offenses
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    The former Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department was charged today in a superseding indictment with tax offenses for failing to report income he received from Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in Wuhan, China.

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  • VA Health Care: Clinical Contact Center Modernization Could Benefit from a Shared Schedule and Additional Guidance to Networks
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) initiated the Clinical Contact Center Modernization effort in May 2020. Through the effort, VHA aims to improve veterans’ access to virtual care and standardize operations of clinical contact centers (contact centers), such as services offered, staffing, training, and how performance is assessed. VHA’s Office of Veterans Access to Care (OVAC)—which is leading the modernization effort—has taken several steps in planning for the modernization effort. One of these steps includes setting a milestone of December 31, 2021, for each of its Veterans Integrated Service Networks to establish a contact center that provides four core services (see table). Officials from six selected networks stated they anticipated meeting this date. OVAC officials stated that modernization is an ongoing effort, and they are working to possibly enhance the four core services with additional capabilities, such as mental health care, in the future. Moving forward, OVAC and networks could benefit from having a shared schedule that includes milestones, activities, and related timelines for networks implementing any future changes. For example, a schedule would provide a shared sequence of events that could help networks better prioritize modernization activities. Core Services That Veterans Integrated Service Networks Are Expected to Offer by December 31, 2021, as Part of VHA’s Clinical Contact Center Modernization Effort Core service Veterans should be able to Primary care scheduling and administration Schedule, reschedule, and cancel appointments; and obtain information about VHA services. Clinical triage Discuss symptoms and concerns, and receive recommendations on the best course of action. Primary care virtual clinic visits Meet virtually with providers to discuss health care needs. Pharmacy Request and track the status of medication refills and renewals; and ask medication-related questions. Source: GAO analysis of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) guidance I GAO 22-104620 Additionally, OVAC has not developed certain guidance, which may hinder its ability to assess contact centers’ performance in providing services, including Finalized performance metrics and targets that would clearly define performance expectations for centers and allow OVAC to assess center performance in a standardized way. Finalized networks’ roles and responsibilities for assessing performance. According to OVAC officials, upgrades to contact centers’ telephone and quality management systems are important components of the modernization effort because they will provide data for assessing center performance. For example, the upgraded telephone system will provide data on call queues for helping to determine staff productivity. Officials told GAO that once the upgrades are fully implemented, which they anticipated would be completed in December 2021, they would have the data they need to finalize performance metrics and targets and define responsibilities for performance assessment. By providing additional guidance to networks, VHA may be able to improve its oversight of centers and determine if centers’ performance is improving—two intended benefits of the modernization effort. Why GAO Did This Study Veterans reach out to VHA’s contact centers via phone, video, and chat to access needed health care services. Historically, these contact centers provided services inconsistently to veterans and operated generally under local oversight. The COVID-19 pandemic saw veterans increasingly reach out to contact centers, which highlighted a need for VHA to examine them. GAO was asked to review several aspects of clinical contact center operations and oversight. This report examines (1) VHA’s modernization planning and (2) VHA’s guidance to networks related to assessing contact centers’ performance, among other things. GAO reviewed Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) modernization documents and interviewed officials from OVAC; VA’s Office of Information and Technology; VA’s Veterans Experience Office; and six networks, selected for variation in geography and their reported progress in implementing the modernization effort.

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  • COVID-19: Significant Improvements Are Needed for Overseeing Relief Funds and Leading Responses to Public Health Emergencies
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found New U.S. COVID-19 cases and virus variants continue to challenge the nation. New daily reported cases increased sharply from December 21, 2021 to January 3, 2022 due primarily to the emergence of the Omicron variant. Cases during this time generally exceeded 380,000, surpassing the daily case rate reported during the emergence of the Delta variant in summer 2021, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Hospitalizations of individuals with confirmed COVID-19 also increased almost twofold at the end of 2021—from an average of 50,000 daily in late November 2021 to 93,000 daily. According to CDC data, as of January 3, 2022, about 62 percent of the total U.S. population had been fully vaccinated. In late 2021, FDA expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in multiple ways, including authorizing vaccines for children 5 through 11 years old, and authorizing booster shots for vaccinated individuals 12 years and older. In addition, the federal government and private businesses began requiring COVID-19 vaccination for certain employees. Reported COVID-19 Vaccinations by Age Group in U.S., as of Jan. 3, 2022   Percentage of population Percentage of fully vaccinated population   Fully vaccinated Booster dose 5 years of age and older 66.1 Not applicable 12 years of age and older 71.2 Not available 18 years of age and older 72.9 37.2 65 years of age and older 87.7 58.8 Total 62.1 34.3 Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). | GAO-22-105291 Note: CDC counts individuals as being fully vaccinated if they received two doses on different days of the two-dose vaccines or received one dose of the single-dose vaccine. GAO’s COVID-19 reports have provided analyses of broad federal efforts to respond to the pandemic and support U.S. businesses and residents, resulting in 246 total recommendations for improving federal operations. Agencies have fully or partially addressed 38 percent as of December 31, 2021, fully addressing 16 percent (40 recommendations) and partially addressing another 22 percent (54 recommendations). Fully addressing GAO’s recommendations will enhance the quality and accountability of federal COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery efforts. GAO also raised four matters for congressional consideration, three of which remain open. In this report, GAO makes five new recommendations in the areas of emergency rental assistance, nutrition assistance, and tax relief for businesses. GAO is also designating the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) leadership and coordination of a range of public health emergencies as high risk. This designation is in keeping with long-standing efforts to identify federal programs needing transformation, and to help ensure sustained executive branch and congressional attention so the nation is prepared for future emergencies. Emergency Rental Assistance As of November 30, 2021, the Department of the Treasury had disbursed nearly $38 billion of the $46.55 billion it was appropriated for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs. These programs provide funds to grantees to administer programs to assist eligible renter households that are unable to pay rent, utilities, or other expenses due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 pandemic. Treasury disburses ERA funds to grantees, such as states, local governments, and tribal governments, which make payments to landlords, households, and others eligible to receive the funds. Treasury has not yet designed processes to identify and recover overpayments made by grantees, such as post-payment reviews or recovery audits. Such reviews could verify the eligibility for and accuracy of ERA payments. Without a process for conducting effective post-payment reviews or recovery audits for the ERA programs, Treasury’s ability to consistently identify and recover overpayments made by grantees may be delayed or impossible. The Single Audit Act establishes requirements for audits of states, local governments, and other nonfederal entities that receive funding from federal awards (e.g., grants) when their expenditures meet a certain dollar threshold. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is responsible for developing government-wide guidance for performing audits to comply with the act. OMB guidance includes issuing an annual Compliance Supplement—a tool to help auditors identify compliance requirements that could have a direct and material effect on major programs. Auditors who conduct single audits follow guidance in the Compliance Supplement and agency guidance specific to their programs. In its 2021 Compliance Supplement, OMB listed the ERA programs as “higher risk” programs, but did not include guidance for auditing grantee compliance with ERA. Without this guidance, auditors might not consistently and effectively identify deficiencies in grantees’ compliance with the requirements of the programs, limiting Treasury’s ability to identify and mitigate risks, including risks to payment integrity. GAO recommends that Treasury design and implement processes, such as post-payment reviews or recovery audits, to help ensure timely identification and recovery of overpayments made by grantees to households, landlords, or utility providers in the ERA programs. Treasury agreed with this recommendation and stated that it is working to establish post-payment reviews and recovery audit activities. GAO also recommends that OMB, in consultation with Treasury, issue guidance now or in the near future on the ERA programs in OMB’s Compliance Supplement for single audits to help ensure that auditors consistently and timely identify deficiencies in grantees’ compliance with the programs’ requirements. OMB neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Nutrition Assistance The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), within the Department of Agriculture, administers multiple federal nutrition assistance programs, including the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (Pandemic EBT) program—which provides food assistance for children attending schools closed due to COVID-19—and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, among others. COVID-19 Funding and Expenditures for Selected Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs as of Nov. 30, 2021 Program Description Total COVID-19 funding ($) COVID-19 expenditures as of Nov. 30, 2021 ($) SNAP Provides low-income individuals and households with benefits to purchase allowed food items and achieve a more nutritious diet. 16.8 billion 15.6 billion Indefinite appropriation 15.0 billion Pandemic EBT Provides households with children who would have received free or reduced-price school meals if not for school closures due to COVID-19, as well as eligible children in childcare, with benefits to purchase food. Indefinite appropriation 42.4 billion WIC Provides eligible low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk with nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care. 1.4 billion 710.5 million TEFAP Provides low-income individuals with groceries through food banks. 1.25 billion 1.1 billion Legend: Pandemic EBT = Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer; SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; TEFAP = the Emergency Food Assistance Program; WIC = Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Source: GAO analysis of relevant provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act; the CARES Act; the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021; and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 as well as information from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), within the Department of Agriculture. | GAO-22-105291 Note: Amounts shown reflect amounts appropriated specifically for COVID-19 response and relief and do not include annual appropriations. SNAP received both specific amounts of funding, as well as an indefinite appropriation—an appropriation that, at the time of enactment, is for an unspecified amount—for certain purposes, including a SNAP benefit increase of 15 percent through September 2021. FNS does not have a comprehensive strategy for how its nutrition assistance programs should respond during emergencies. As part of this, FNS’s pandemic plans are outdated, and FNS efforts to identify and incorporate lessons learned from COVID-19 into its nutrition programs are incomplete. Developing a strategy for how its programs should respond to emergencies would benefit FNS’s response to both the current pandemic and future emergencies. Such a strategy could help FNS ensure that individuals and households maintain food security in times of heightened need and that FNS does not miss opportunities to coordinate with vendors across the country. FNS has also not provided sufficient assistance to state and local agencies to facilitate their efforts to obtain reliable and comprehensive eligibility data for the Pandemic EBT program. According to FNS officials, state agencies reported various challenges collecting such data, including relying on manual tracking of thousands of participants. Reliable and comprehensive data can help state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program agencies ensure they have issued Pandemic EBT benefits to all eligible students in the correct benefit amounts. GAO recommends that the Department of Agriculture ensure that FNS (1) develops a comprehensive strategy for the agency’s nutrition assistance programs to respond to emergencies that includes lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and a mechanism to periodically review and update the strategy and (2) shares timely information with states and other stakeholders during development of the strategy to help inform their ongoing response to COVID-19. GAO also recommends that the Department of Agriculture ensure that FNS further assists state and local agencies in their efforts to obtain reliable and comprehensive eligibility data for the Pandemic EBT program in order to determine eligibility and benefits amounts accurately. The Department of Agriculture agreed with both recommendations. Tax Relief for Businesses To provide liquidity to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act and other COVID-19 relief laws included tax measures to help businesses by reducing certain tax obligations, which, in some cases, led to cash refunds. These tax measures included expanded carrybacks for net operating losses—that is, when a taxpayer’s allowable deductions exceed the gross income for a tax year—and the acceleration of alternative minimum tax (AMT) credit refunds. According to officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the CARES Act changes contributed to the agency receiving 276 percent more filings for carryback refunds—which include applications for tentative refunds for net operating loss carrybacks and AMT credit refunds—in fiscal year 2021 than in fiscal year 2020. IRS has been unable to process this backlog consistent with its statutory time frames for processing applications for tentative refunds, which businesses submit through IRS Forms 1045 and 1139. The Internal Revenue Code and the CARES Act generally require IRS to issue certain refunds within a 90-day period. IRS data show that the agency started to miss the 90-day statutory requirement for applications in September 2020 and missed it throughout 2021. As of November 2021, the average time for IRS to process all carryback refunds was 165 days (see figure). Average Monthly Processing Times for Carryback Applications and Claims Filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Apr. 2020–Nov. 2021 Note: These data include all carryback cases, including those filed as “claims” on other IRS forms and those filed as “applications” on Forms 1045 and 1139. Forms 1045 are represented in the individual line and Forms 1139 are represented in the business line. Forms 1139 may also contain refund claims for the alternative minimum tax refund. IRS officials said the reported times do not include the additional time—up to 2 weeks—it may take for IRS to finalize production and distribute the refund to the taxpayer. The figure does not represent all of the work that IRS did throughout the year, but focuses on actions specific to the processing times for carryback cases. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 were also enacted in December 2020 and March 2021 respectively, and contained provisions that also required IRS action.Note: These data include all carryback cases, including those filed as “claims” on other IRS forms and those filed as “applications” on Forms 1045 and 1139. Forms 1045 are represented in the individual line and Forms 1139 are represented in the business line. Forms 1139 may also contain refund claims for the alternative minimum tax refund. IRS officials said the reported times do not include the additional time—up to 2 weeks—it may take for IRS to finalize production and distribute the refund to the taxpayer. The figure does not represent all of the work that IRS did throughout the year, but focuses on actions specific to the processing times for carryback cases. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 were also enacted in December 2020 and March 2021 respectively, and contained provisions that also required IRS action. While IRS took some remedial actions, it did not have effective preventative control activities or mitigation plans in place to detect or address growing processing times for tentative refunds submitted on IRS Forms 1139 and 1045, such as an average processing time threshold to trigger activities to avoid missing refund deadlines. As such, IRS did not take actions to reduce the carryback backlog until April 2021—7 months after the agency began missing its statutory requirement. Until effective preventative control activities and mitigation plans are put in place, IRS remains at risk of continuing to exceed its 90-day statutory requirement to issue tentative refunds for net operating loss carrybacks and AMT credit refunds. Failure to meet processing deadlines not only causes some taxpayers to face delays in receiving their refunds, but also increases the cost to the federal government in terms of interest paid on such refunds. According to IRS data for fiscal year 2021, these interest payments amounted to approximately $61 million on all carrybacks, of which applications for tentative refund made up roughly 80 percent of all carryback interest payments for the fiscal year. GAO recommends that IRS establish mitigation plans—including indicators, such as a threshold to initiate mitigation activities—to timely address future challenges to processing times for applications for tentative refunds on Forms 1045 and 1139 within the 90-day statutory requirement. IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation, but said that it will take the recommendation into consideration as it continues to make improvements to taxpayer services. HHS COVID-19 Funding HHS received approximately $484 billion in COVID-19 relief appropriations from the six COVID-19 relief laws. These relief funds may be used for a range of purposes, such as assistance to health care or child care providers; testing, therapeutic, or vaccine-related activities; or procurement of critical supplies. Of the $484 billion appropriated, HHS reported that it had obligated about $387 billion and expended about $226 billion—about 80 percent and 47 percent, respectively, as of November 30, 2021. GAO previously recommended that HHS provide projected time frames for its spending of the remainder of its COVID-19 relief funds in the spend plans HHS submits to Congress. HHS partially agreed with the recommendation, but stated that the department would not be able to provide specific time frames for all relief funds as it needed to remain flexible in responding to incoming requests. Providing projected time frames would not affect HHS’s ability to be flexible in its spend plans, as these plans are not binding to the agency and can be revised. GAO will continue to examine HHS’s oversight of COVID-19 relief funds. High-Risk Designation: HHS’s Leadership and Coordination of Public Health Emergencies For more than a decade, GAO has reported on HHS’s execution of its lead role in preparing for, and responding to, a range of public health emergencies and has found persistent deficiencies in its ability to perform this role. These deficiencies have hindered the nation’s response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and a variety of past threats, including other infectious diseases—such as the H1N1 influenza pandemic, Zika, and Ebola—and extreme weather events, such as hurricanes. As devastating as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, more frequent extreme weather events, new viruses, and bad actors who threaten to cause intentional harm loom, making the deficiencies GAO has identified particularly concerning. Not being sufficiently prepared for a range of public health emergencies can also negatively affect the time and resources needed to achieve full recovery. While HHS has taken some actions to address the 115 recommendations GAO has made related to its leadership and coordination of public health emergencies since fiscal year 2007, 72 remain open. For example, HHS has not addressed our September 2020 recommendation to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop plans to mitigate supply chain shortages for the remainder of the pandemic, thus contributing to the shortage of such supplies as of January 2022. Also, while HHS began to procure additional tests in the latter part of 2021 and into 2022, and the White House recently appointed a new testing coordinator, HHS had not issued a comprehensive and publicly available testing strategy, which we recommend it do in January 2021. Such a strategy is needed to ensure more timely proactive action in the future and the efficient use of billions of dollars in unobligated funds. GAO’s prior work has identified persistent deficiencies in HHS’s preparedness and response efforts in several areas, including (1) establishing clear roles and responsibilities for the wide range of key federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and nongovernmental partners; (2) collecting and analyzing complete and consistent data to inform decision-making—including any necessary midcourse changes—as well as future preparedness; (3) providing clear and consistent communication to key partners and the public; (4) establishing transparency and accountability to help ensure program integrity and build public trust; and (5) understanding key partners’ capabilities and limitations. GAO is adding this area to the high-risk list to help ensure the executive branch and Congress pay sustained attention in order to make additional progress in implementing GAO’s open recommendations and strengthen HHS’s leadership and coordination role for future public health emergencies. Why GAO Did This Study At the beginning of January 2022, the U.S. had about 56 million reported cases of COVID-19 and over 830,000 reported deaths, according to CDC. The country also experiences lingering economic repercussions related to the pandemic, including rising inflation and ongoing supply chain disruptions. Six relief laws, including the CARES Act, have been enacted to address the public health and economic threats posed by COVID-19. As of November 30, 2021 (the most recent date for which data were available), the federal government had obligated a total of $4 trillion and expended $3.5 trillion, 88 and 77 percent, respectively, of the total COVID-19 relief funds provided by these six laws. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report, GAO’s ninth, examines the federal government’s continued efforts to respond to, and recover from, the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO reviewed federal data and documents. GAO also interviewed federal and state officials and other stakeholders.

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  • Immigration Detention: ICE Should Enhance Its Use of Facility Oversight Data and Management of Detainee Complaints
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other DHS entities use, in part, inspections to oversee detention facilities and address identified deficiencies. As shown below, in fiscal year 2019, most of ICE’s 179 facilities that housed adults for over 72 hours underwent inspections by contractors or its Office of Detention Oversight, while smaller facilities conducted self-assessments. ICE also conducted onsite monitoring at facilities. Further, two DHS offices conducted inspections related to certain aspects of facilities. ICE collects the results of its various inspections, such as deficiencies they identify, but does not comprehensively analyze them to identify trends or record all inspection results in a format conducive to such analyses. By ensuring inspection results are recorded in a format conducive to analysis and regularly conducting comprehensive analyses of results, ICE would be better positioned to identify and address potential trends in deficiencies. Detention Facility Oversight by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Entities at 179 Facilities, Fiscal Year 2019 ICE and DHS entities have various mechanisms for receiving and addressing detention-related complaints from detainees and others. However, while some of these entities conduct some analyses of the complaint data they maintain, ICE does not regularly analyze detention-related complaint data across all of its relevant offices. By regularly conducting such analyses, ICE could identify and address potential trends in complaints. Additionally, ICE does not have reasonable assurance that Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field offices—which oversee and manage detention facilities—address and record outcomes of detention-related complaints referred to them for resolution, or do so in a timely manner. For example, GAO’s analysis of data from one referring office—the Administrative Inquiry Unit—indicated that for certain noncriminal complaints the unit refers, ERO field offices did not provide resolutions back to the unit for 99 percent of referrals. Without requiring that ERO field offices record any actions taken on, and the resolutions of, detention-related complaints, ICE does not have reasonable assurance that field offices are addressing them. ICE is the lead agency responsible for providing safe, secure, and humane confinement for detained foreign nationals in the United States. ICE has established standards for immigration detention related to complaint processes, medical care, and other areas. The joint explanatory statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review ICE’s management and oversight of detention facilities and detention-related complaints. This report examines ICE and other DHS entities’ mechanisms for (1) overseeing compliance with immigration detention facility standards and how ICE uses oversight information to address any identified deficiencies; and (2) receiving and addressing detainee complaints, and how ICE uses complaint information. GAO analyzed documentation and data on inspections and complaints at facilities that held detainees for over 72 hours during the last 3 fiscal years—2017 through 2019; visited 10 facilities selected based on inspection results and other factors; and interviewed officials. GAO is making six recommendations, including that ICE ensures oversight data are recorded in a format conducive to analysis, regularly conducts trend analyses of oversight data and detention-related complaint data, and requires that ERO field offices record the resolutions of detention-related complaints. DHS concurred. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler, (202) 512-8777) or gamblerr@gao.gov.

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  • COVID-19: Federal Efforts to Provide Vaccines to Racial and Ethnic Groups
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In February 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) each launched COVID-19 vaccine programs to supplement state and jurisdictional vaccination efforts. Through these three programs, the agencies took steps to provide COVID-19 vaccines to underserved and historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups, such as by using population data on race and ethnicity when selecting vaccination sites. CDC, HRSA, and FEMA data—although limited in completeness—suggest that the agencies’ COVID-19 vaccine programs vaccinated varying shares of racial and ethnic groups. GAO’s analysis of data from CDC’s retail pharmacy program, the largest of the programs, suggests that, among those with identified race and ethnicity, 43 percent of people vaccinated through the program were from racial and ethnic groups other than non-Hispanic White, as of September 4, 2021. (See figure.) Percentage of People Vaccinated against COVID-19 through CDC’s Retail Pharmacy Program by Race and Ethnicity, as of September 4, 2021 CDC exceeded its goal to administer at least 40 percent—the approximate percent of the U.S. population comprised of racial and ethnic groups other than non-Hispanic White—of COVID-19 vaccines through its retail pharmacy program to persons from these groups. However, comparisons between program vaccination data and U.S. population percentages suggest that some racial and ethnic groups, such as non-Hispanic Black persons, represented a smaller share of persons vaccinated through each of the three federal vaccine programs relative to their population size. For example, non-Hispanic Black persons make up roughly 12 percent of the U.S. population, but account for about 9 percent of persons vaccinated through CDC’s retail pharmacy program with identified race and ethnicity, as of September 4, 2021. These findings should be interpreted with caution due to the rate of missing race and ethnicity program data, which may account for some, or even all, of the differences in comparisons. Why GAO Did This Study COVID-19 continues to have devastating effects on public health, serious economic repercussions, and has disproportionately affected some racial and ethnic groups. Ensuring all racial and ethnic groups have fair access to the COVID-19 vaccine is critical to reducing severe COVID-19 health outcomes and saving lives. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report describes, among other things, the actions CDC, HRSA, and FEMA have taken through their programs to provide COVID-19 vaccines to underserved and historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and the extent to which these programs vaccinated various racial and ethnic groups. GAO analyzed CDC, HRSA, and FEMA vaccine administration data through September 2021; interviewed agency officials and reviewed agency documentation on COVID-19 vaccine programs and published literature on vaccine administration; interviewed health officials from four selected states and representatives from six selected stakeholder groups based on several criteria, such as states’ racial and ethnic population distributions; and compared the agencies’ vaccine administration data to 2020 U.S. Census Bureau population counts. GAO provided a draft of this report to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including CDC and HRSA, and FEMA. HHS and FEMA provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Alyssa M. Hundrup at (202) 512-7114 or HundrupA@gao.gov.

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