Top House Republicans are criticizing Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for avoiding oversight while her agency is accused of mishandling billions of dollars of COVID-19 relief funds.
The lawmakers, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., blasted Yellen in a letter Wednesday for skipping her congressionally mandated testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. Instead of testifying during a public hearing, Yellen met privately with Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the committee’s chairwoman.
“Over the last several months, the Treasury Department has struggled to administer key relief programs critical to the country’s economic recovery,” Scalise and the other House Republicans wrote to Yellen. “During that same period, you avoided a series of opportunities to testify before congressional committees of jurisdiction and answer questions, in public.”
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, wrote to Waters earlier this month demanding that Yellen publicly testify on the Emergency Rental Assistance program, which was introduced in coronavirus relief packages last year.
Last week, the Treasury Department admitted that it has distributed less than $3 billion of the $46.6 billion that Congress appropriated for the program in two of the most recent stimulus bills.
But the federal eviction moratorium, which has prevented landlords from evicting low-income tenants throughout the pandemic, is set to expire in less than a week.
“What initially appeared to be an effort to avoid answering difficult questions from Republicans and Democrats alike now appears to be something more cynical in light of yesterday morning’s private meeting with a House Democrat,” the Republicans wrote to Yellen.
“In fact, your closed-door meeting to discuss the Department’s emergency rental assistance program occurred during a public hearing on that very topic,” they said.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed in March 2020, requires the treasury secretary to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on a quarterly basis.
The Emergency Rental Assistance program provides low-income families with rent payment assistance. McHenry has previously expressed concern that the Treasury Department has failed to reach individuals who will be unable to fend off eviction when the moratorium expires.
“With millions of families worried they’ll lose their homes in 10 days, we need to act now to correct this gross mismanagement,” McHenry told The Daily Caller News Foundation last week. “But instead of working with us, Democrats are more focused on their progressive agenda—leaving renters twisting in the wind.”
In addition to Scalise and McHenry, signers of the letter to Yellen included Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., ranking member of the House Small Business Committee.
The Treasury Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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