Foster looking for 'waste, fraud and abuse' in coronavirus relief oversight role

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster is focusing on any potential waste, fraud and abuse in his new role on the House Select Committee on the coronavirus pandemic in Congress.

Foster, D-Naperville, and other members of the committee are tasked with oversight of the trillions of dollars in federal aid passed to combat the pandemic and its economic consequences across the country.

“Most work will be making sure money gets to where Congress intended,” Foster said in a phone interview on Monday.

He added the intention of the committee is to be “backward looking at what could have been done better.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said in a news release the select committee was modeled after the Truman Committee, which performed a similar role during World War II and which saved billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

Foster said the select committee will examine and work to prevent any profiteering during the crisis. He pointed to examples of hospitals desperate for personal protective equipment having to pay much more than they would under normal circumstances for items like N95 masks.

The congressman said he also wants to learn more about how effective the Paycheck Protection Program has been. The PPP was meant to grant forgivable loans to small businesses hit hard due to public health measures taken to combat the spread of the virus.

Foster said he still hasn’t received a clear answer from the U.S. Treasury Department as to which specific companies received a loan.

“The information we’ve gotten so far is not satisfactory,” he said.

Foster added that he hopes more money will be included for small businesses in the next relief package. He said he wants to see more loans given out to the smallest of businesses.

Other types of aid Foster said he’d like to see included in future coronavirus relief legislation include relief for those with student debt, another round of cash payments to individuals and more relief for hospitals.

“Because of the scale of the response to this intervention, it is important that we cast a wide net,” he said.

Foster said he hopes Congress will vote on another bill sometime next week.

He also decried the process by which federal aid gets allocated to states. He argued states like Illinois have historically given more money to the federal government in taxes every year, than it receives in federal aid.

Foster said he hopes the select committee will look into how to rewrite formulas to ensure states like Illinois receive their fair share in federal aid.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.