Representative Phillips Announces Lawsuit Regarding GEER Funds

Ponca City Now - August 18, 2022 6:39 am

Representative Logan Phillips

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, announced Tuesday he has filed a lawsuit for records surrounding the use and management of Oklahoma’s Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds.

“On May 4, I began making formal requests for information into the state’s expenditures of the GEER funds under the Cares Act,” Phillips said. “On May 5 and again on May 6, I followed up with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) on those requests after being informed they did not have access to the documents requested. In addition to my direct requests through OMES, I also submitted open records requests to the offices of Governor Kevin Stitt and Secretary of Education Ryan Walters. No response was ever received from any of these requests. Due to a failure of transparency and lack of accountability regarding these important funds, I am seeking declarative and injunctive relief because I believe failure to provide the requested records is unlawful and the records need to be made publicly available immediately.”

According to the United States Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education website, in 2020, Congress set aside approximately $3 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. The Department awarded these grants ­to States (Governor’s offices) based on a formula stipulated in the legislation:

  • 60% on the basis of the State’s relative population of individuals aged 5 through 24.
  • 40% on the basis of the State’s relative number of children counted under section 1124(c) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, 2021, was signed into law on December 27, 2020, and provided an additional $4,053,060,000 for the GEER Fund. The CRRSA Act provides that $1,303,060,000 of those funds be used to supplement the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER II Fund) awarded to each State with an approved GEER application under the CARES Act enacted on March 27, 2020.

“Approximately one month ago, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General issued an audit that was extremely critical of Oklahoma’s use of GEER funds,” Phillips said. “This makes the production of these documents even more important to ensure proper oversight of expenditures and to hold accountable those persons or entities that misspent public dollars, or allowed them to be misspent. Due to ongoing investigations and audits by the Inspector General, we are looking at the possibility of 5 out of every 6 dollars of GEER funding having been misspent. This is unacceptable and the citizens of Oklahoma deserve answers.”

 

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