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Protect Whistleblowers Who Expose Abuse of Coronavirus Relief Funds

Statement of Juley Fulcher, Worker Health and Safety Advocate, Public Citizen

Note: U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) today introduced the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act, which would protect whistleblowers who expose waste, fraud and abuse of funding from coronavirus-related bailouts.

It is essential that federal dollars expended to address the pandemic reach those who need it the most. Rebuilding our economy relies on helping workers keep their jobs, ensuring small businesses stay afloat and providing essential workers with a living wage and the personal protection equipment they need.

We know that large, profitable corporations that are taking these funds are not using them to protect workers, but to line their own pockets. Since the administration is trying to hide information about who is getting small business funds, whistleblowers are even more important to rooting out wrongdoing related to the bailout.

Workers are the most likely to witness illegal profiteering and graft. They should be protected from retaliation for exposing misuse of taxpayer funds and given a private right of action against employers who fire or punish them for doing so. Whistleblowers’ confidentiality also must be protected, including releasing them from company gag rules.