We are just about a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and around $2.5 trillion in taxpayer monies spent in the federal response. Payments from the feds went to multiple entities including individuals and businesses, as well as state, local and tribal governments and other public entities like schools, transit agencies and joint power authorities.
The County of Orange received over $500 million in Cares Act money from the federal government and it has been spent to support many programs and projects including testing, which my husband and I had to use. Our experience with the testing center at the Anaheim Convention Center was very good. The Cares Act dollars can only be used for virus-related expenses and cannot be used to back fill downturn revenue losses. The glitch at the County of Orange has been in the transparency of how these taxpayer's dollars are being spent.
OCTax understands the emergency contracting authority that was delegated to the County CEO. This is the most expediate way to deal with spending during a crisis. We get that. But there always needs to be transparency in how the money is being spent and it appears getting that information has been like pulling teeth. So of course, watch dog groups will start to question the expenditures, as happened recently when a $2 million PR contract was being given to help convince residents to get the vaccine and show residents how well the county is handling the crisis. I think a lot of people would be happy to get the vaccine if they could only sign up for an appointment through the county's Othena app. The Voice of OC has been pit-bulling the County of Orange with public records requests for months, asking for detailed accounting of the expenditures and the county has now complied.
OCTax suggests, now that all contracts have been disclosed, monthly updates be posted to allow all taxpayers in Orange County the ability to see how their dollars are being spent.