On July 23, a group of whistleblower advocacy and government accountability organizations sent an open letter to Congress, to urge the passage of legislation to protect coronavirus whistleblowers. Specifically, the groups wrote in support of the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act. The bill was introduced to Congress on June 15 by Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD). The law would protect coronavirus whistleblowers and ensure the appropriate spending of coronavirus relief funds.
According to the letter, the bill contains provisions that have all been approved by Congress in other contexts and combine the composite best practices of U.S. whistleblower legislation. The letter claims that whistleblowers should be credited with minimizing fraud, waste, and abuse in the 2009 spending surge and that they will be just as essential in policing coronavirus relief spending.
The letter states that “The legislation would institute whistleblower protections to —
- close coverage loopholes and inconsistencies through consistent rights for all those
blowing the whistle on misspending relief funds;
- protect disclosures that evidence illegality, danger to public health or safety, abuse of
authority, gross mismanagement or gross waste;
- provide administrative relief through the Department of Labor; with access to a
federal court jury trial in the absence of a timely ruling;
- strengthen whistleblower confidentiality protections and negate gag orders; and
- provide comprehensive relief for those who prevail, including costs.”
July 30 is National Whistleblower Day. In celebration, the National Whistleblower Center, one of the co-signers of the letter, is hosting a series of live online panels to discuss issues facing whistleblowers. One of the panels will discuss coronavirus whistleblowers. The panel address the crucial role that whistleblowers have played to uncover fraud, waste, and misconduct in COVID-19 relief spending. They will also provide suggestions for how we can best support and protect whistleblowers during this health crisis.