JEFFERSON CITY — Lawmakers are considering creating a committee to oversee money allocated to Missouri counties under the recently passed American Rescue Plan of 2021 and future economic stimulus plans.
The Committee on Local Recovery Accountability and Transparency’s primary function would be preventing fraud, waste and abuse involving federal stimulus spending that is allocated directly toward political subdivisions in the state, said Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, in a House hearing Monday.
“The committee would have an oversight role at the state level over the expenditure of those dollars by those respective political subdivisions,” he said.
The proposed committee is meant to comprise five members: one member from the House, one from the Senate, the state auditor, the state treasurer and the state budget director.
Using a submission form for the local governments to report their receipt of funds and expenditures, it would review contracts and expenses related to the American Rescue Plan of 2021, the most recent pandemic relief aid package.
If the committee considered it necessary, it would take testimony and request further evidence to help explain the use of money.
Because the committee is only meant to oversee spending related to the rescue plan, it anticipates its dissolution Dec. 1, 2023.
The relief package, approved by Congress in March, would distribute $1.9 trillion nationwide to counteract the economic impact of COVID-19 in the U.S. Missouri is expected to get more than $5.4 billion, including $1.19 billion for counties and almost $2.9 billion in state fiscal relief.
Boone County is expected to receive more than $35 million, according to the public policy analysis organization Missouri Budget Project.
Monday’s discussion revolved around the need for a separate committee to take care of these expenditures’ oversight. Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, questioned the committee’s creation because that role already could be filled by the State Auditor’s Office.
The auditor is a Democrat, but House and Senate leadership is Republican. There was concern among some, including Merideth, that the committee wouldn’t be bipartisan.
“Perhaps having an appointment from the minority leaders as well could help with that, since we’re talking about a lot of dollars that are going directly to urban areas that are represented typically by our side of the aisle here,” he said. “Having that perspective in this process could be a useful thing.”
Chance Sticklen contributed to this report.