Judiciary Seeks 2022 Funding, Cites Caseload Resurgence and Security Needs

Federal Judiciary officials have asked Congress for $8.12 billion to fund judicial branch operations for fiscal year 2022. The request includes funding to keep pace with inflationary and other budget adjustments, and to pay for program increases, including projected workload changes, courthouse security, cybersecurity, and new magistrate judges.

The request in discretionary appropriations represents an overall $403 million increase, or 5.2 percent, above the FY 2021 enacted level.

“I ask that you consider the constitutional and statutory responsibilities with which the judiciary is charged,” Judge John W. Lungstrum, chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on the Budget, said in testimony. “In return, I commit to you that we will continue to be effective and cost-conscious stewards of the funds Congress entrusts to us.”

Lungstrum was joined by Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, in testifying on Feb. 24 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

In her testimony, Mauskopf outlined branch-wide priorities that the Administrative Office is supporting, including employee diversity and inclusion, workplace conduct protections, and growing judicial security needs for federal judges and U.S. court facilities. Mauskopf asked for $100.3 million for the AO, a 4.9 percent increase.

“I echo Judge Lungstrum’s gratitude to the subcommittee for its generous and consistent support of the Judiciary,” Mauskopf testified. “By providing the resources needed by the AO and the rest of the branch, you are ensuring that the judiciary can continue to perform its vital role as intended and required.”

Lungstrum noted that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted federal court operations, including widespread telework for employees, postponed jury trials, increased use of video and teleconferencing, and new approaches for probation and pretrial supervision.

“The judicial branch’s more than 33,000 dedicated professionals – like public and private sector workers everywhere – continue to perform their duties admirably during this period of great uncertainty,” Lungstrum said. “But we anticipate a backlog of cases will flood the federal court system once vaccination becomes widespread and society begins a return to normalcy.”

Lungstrum said the courts will need supplemental appropriations for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2021, to pay for information technology expenses and for enhanced cleaning of court space to reduce infection risk for litigants and court personnel.

Other testimony highlights:

  • Increased staffing for federal defenders. The Judiciary is requesting $12 million to hire 118 full-time employees, to address staffing shortages identified by work measurement tools. An additional $9 million is for staff to address unexpected surges in workload, and $1.5 million would fund a diversity fellowship program in federal defender offices.
  • Expected resurgence in caseloads. The pandemic resulted in double-digit declines in 2020 in criminal filings (-11 percent) and bankruptcy filings (-12 percent). “The Judiciary projects that criminal and bankruptcy workload will rebound in 2021, with each increasing nearly 4 percent,” Lungstrum said. Court-appointed defense representations in the Judiciary’s defender services program are also expected to increase.
  • Court Security. The request includes $682 million to fund nearly 4,600 court security officers protecting courthouses; payments to the Federal Protective Service for the patrol and protection of courthouse perimeters; and security systems and equipment, including funding for ongoing security improvements.
  • Cost containment. The Judiciary is streamlining the administration of tens of millions of bankruptcy notices – nearly 67 million in 2020. Electronic noticing to creditors and debtors resulted in $9 million in cost avoidance in FY 2020 alone.
  • Magistrate judgeships. The Judiciary is seeking funding for six additional full-time magistrate judges and one part-time magistrate judge, for courts in Camden, New Jersey; Corpus Christi, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Pierre, South Dakota; Waco, Texas; St. George, Utah; and the District of Columbia (part-time).
  • Cybersecurity. The Judiciary has requested funding to renew firewall licenses and to enhance cybersecurity in federal defender IT systems.
  • Mandatory pay for judges. In addition to the discretionary budget, the Judiciary requested a total of $757 million in mandatory funds for judges’ salaries and retirement funds.

Mauskopf said the AO has made great progress since 2018 in protecting Judiciary employees from inappropriate workplace conduct. “We have made substantial improvements that have real impacts on our employees and continue to do so with a number of new achievements in the last year,” she said.

Mauskopf reported that every circuit and nearly 80 percent of the districts have now adopted a model Employment Dispute Resolution plan that clearly defines misconduct. The Judiciary also offers flexible avenues for reporting complaints, and the Judicial Conference approved amendments to the Code of Conduct for employees of federal public defender organizations that mirror misconduct-related changes made to the Codes of Conduct for judges and court employees in 2019.

She also said the AO has strengthened efforts to expand workplace diversity, hiring a diversity and inclusion officer. The Facilities and Security Office also has established five summer internships that focus recruitment on historically black colleges.

“I am committed to recruiting, hiring, and retaining a highly qualified and diverse workforce,” Mauskopf said, “and ensuring that our workplace is welcoming and respectful to all.”

Mauskopf said greater protections are needed for judges, citing the murder last July of the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas at their home in New Jersey.

The Judiciary supports legislation that would prohibit the resale or online posting of personally identifiable information that might reveal where federal judges live, and the creation of a resource to monitor the online availability of personal information and associated threats. Mauskopf noted that Congress approved funding late last year for the U.S. Marshals Service to modernize home-security systems for federal judges.

Draft legislation to prevent the spread of online information that endangers judges has bipartisan support, she added. “We are encouraged by this progress and hope to build on it as we work to achieve the enactment of our remaining priorities,” Mauskopf said.

In addition to the murder of Judge Salas’s son, the Judiciary also has identified a need for additional security resources following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. These measures include targeted infrastructure fixes, such as “riot glass” and magnetic door locks, that can better protect federal courthouses against large groups seeking unlawful entry.

Mauskopf noted that these requirements were developed too recently to be included in the Judiciary’s FY 2022 budget request, but she offered to work with Congress to address additional security needs.

“These disquieting and, in some cases, tragic events … have sharpened the Judicial Conference’s focus on the need to make significant and urgent improvements to the full range of judicial security activities,” Mauskopf said.

Lungstrum and Mauskopf both stressed the importance of the General Services Administration receiving funding to address Judiciary space needs. FY 2022 courthouse construction priorities include a new courthouse in Puerto Rico, which would address a Judicial Conference declared space emergency due to seismic vulnerabilities. The Judiciary also is requesting the remaining funding for courthouse projects in Hartford, Connecticut, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. GSA receives funding in the same appropriations subcommittee as the Judiciary.

More from: info@uscourts.gov

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    Today, the Department of Justice announced two new steps to help address the continuing epidemic of gun violence affecting communities across the country. First, the department issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that makes clear that when individuals use accessories to convert pistols into short-barreled rifles, they must comply with the heightened regulations on those dangerous and easily concealable weapons. Second, the department published model legislation to help states craft their own “extreme risk protection order” laws, sometimes called “red flag” laws. By sending the proposed rule to the Federal Register and publishing the model legislation today, the department has met the deadlines that the Attorney General announced alongside President Biden in April. 
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  • Surface Transportation Security: TSA Has Taken Steps to Improve its Surface Inspector Program, but Lacks Performance Targets
    In U.S GAO News
    According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Surface Transportation Security Inspector Operations Plan (TSA's plan), surface transportation security inspectors—known as surface inspectors—are to enter key details for program activities in the Performance and Results Information System (PARIS)—TSA's system of record for all surface inspector activities. In December 2017, GAO reported that TSA was unable to fully account for surface inspector time spent assisting with non-surface transportation modes, including aviation, due to data limitations in PARIS, and recommended TSA address these limitations. Since GAO's report, TSA updated PARIS to better track surface inspector activities in non-surface transportation modes. Transportation Security Administration Surface Inspectors Assess Security of a Bus System TSA's plan outlines steps to align work plan activities with risk assessment findings. However, TSA cannot comprehensively ensure surface inspectors are targeting program resources to high-risk modes and locations because it does not consistently collect information on entity mode or location in PARIS. According to officials, TSA plans to update PARIS and program guidance to require inspectors to include this information in the system by the end of fiscal year 2020. TSA's plan outlines performance measures for the surface inspector program, but does not establish quantifiable performance targets for all activities. Targets indicate how well an agency aspires to perform and could include, for example, entity scores on TSA security assessments, among others. By developing targets, TSA would be better positioned to assess the surface inspector program's progress in achieving its objective of increasing security among surface transportation entities. Surface transportation—freight and passenger rail, mass transit, highway, maritime and pipeline systems—is vulnerable to global terrorism and other threats. TSA is the federal agency primarily responsible for securing surface transportation systems. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires TSA to submit a plan to guide its Surface Transportation Security Inspectors Program. The Act includes a provision for GAO to review TSA's plan. This report examines the extent to which TSA's plan and its implementation: (1) address known data limitations related to tracking surface inspector activities among non-surface modes, (2) align surface operations with risk assessments, and how, if at all, TSA ensures inspectors prioritize activities in high-risk modes and locations, and (3) establish performance targets for the surface inspector program. GAO reviewed TSA's June 2019 plan and analyzed data on inspector activities for fiscal years 2017 through 2019. GAO interviewed officials in headquarters and a non-generalizable sample of 7 field offices selected based on geographical location and the presence of high-risk urban areas. GAO recommends that TSA establish quantifiable performance targets for the surface inspector program's activity-level performance measures. DHS concurred with our recommendation. For more information, contact Triana McNeil at (202) 512-8777 or McNeilT@gao.gov.
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  • United States Files Complaint and Reaches Agreement on Stipulation with Limetree Bay Terminals LLC and Limetree Bay Refining LLC Relating to Petroleum Refinery in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
    In Crime News
    Today, the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a complaint in federal court in the U.S. Virgin Islands against Limetree Bay Terminals LLC and Limetree Bay Refining LLC (jointly Limetree Bay) alleging that the companies’ St. Croix petroleum refinery presents an imminent and substantial danger to public health and the environment. In a stipulation filed simultaneously with the complaint that acknowledges that the refinery is not currently operating and that Limetree Bay does not intend to restart the refinery at the present time, Limetree Bay has agreed to a number of requirements, including the following:
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  • Elder Justice: HHS Could Do More to Encourage State Reporting on the Costs of Financial Exploitation
    In U.S GAO News
    Most state Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies have been providing data on reports of abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including data on financial exploitation, although some faced challenges collecting and submitting these data. Since states began providing data to HHS's National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS) in 2017, they have been voluntarily submitting more detailed data on financial exploitation and perpetrators each year (see figure). However, some APS officials GAO interviewed in selected states said collecting data is difficult, in part, because victims are reluctant to implicate others, especially family members or other caregivers. APS officials also said submitting data to NAMRS was challenging initially because their data systems often did not align with NAMRS, and caseworkers may not have entered data in the system correctly. HHS has provided technical assistance and grant funding to help states address some of these challenges and help provide a better picture of the prevalence of the various types of financial exploitation and its perpetrators nationwide. Number of States That Provide Data on Financial Exploitation and Perpetrators to NAMRS Studies estimate some of the costs of financial exploitation to be in the billions, but comprehensive data on total costs do not exist and NAMRS does not currently collect cost data from APS agencies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found actual losses and attempts at elder financial exploitation reported by financial institutions nationwide were $1.7 billion in 2017. Also, studies published from 2016 to 2020 from three states—New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—estimated the costs of financial exploitation could be more than $1 billion in each state alone. HHS does not currently ask states to submit cost data from APS casefiles to NAMRS, though officials said they have begun to reevaluate NAMRS with state APS agencies and other interested parties, including researchers, and may consider asking states to submit cost data moving forward. Adding cost data to NAMRS could make a valuable contribution to the national picture of the cost of financial exploitation. Recognizing the importance of these data, some APS officials GAO interviewed said their states have developed new data fields or other tools to help caseworkers collect and track cost data more systematically. HHS officials said they plan to share this information with other states to make them aware of practices that could help them collect cost data, but they have not established a timeframe for doing so. Elder financial exploitation—the fraudulent or illegal use of an older adult's funds or property—has far-reaching effects on victims and society. Understanding the scope of the problem has thus far been hindered by a lack of nationwide data. In 2013, HHS worked with states to create NAMRS, a voluntary system for collecting APS data on elder abuse, including financial exploitation. GAO was asked to study the extent to which NAMRS provides information on elder financial exploitation. This report examines (1) the status of HHS's efforts to compile nationwide data through NAMRS on the extent of financial exploitation and the challenges involved, and (2) what is known about the costs of financial exploitation to victims and others. GAO analyzed NAMRS data from fiscal year 2016 through 2019 (the most recent available); reviewed relevant federal laws; and interviewed officials from HHS, other federal agencies, elder abuse prevention organizations, and researchers. GAO also reviewed APS documents and spoke with officials in eight states, selected based on their efforts to study, collect, and report cost data; and reviewed studies on financial exploitation. GAO recommends that HHS (1) work with state APS agencies to collect and submit cost data to NAMRS, and (2) develop a timeframe to share states' tools to help collect cost data. HHS did not agree with the first recommendation, but GAO maintains that it is warranted, as discussed in the report. HHS agreed with the second recommendation. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-7215 or larink@gao.gov.
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  • Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers Delivers Remarks on the National Security Cyber Investigation into North Korean Operatives
    In Crime News
    Today, the Justice Department is announcing charges following a significant national security cyber investigation first disclosed publicly more than two years ago.
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  • Launching Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate
    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Travel
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  • Chicago Tech Executive Charged with Illegally Exporting Computer Equipment to Pakistan
    In Crime News
    A Chicago-area resident who owns a Pakistani technology company has been indicted for allegedly illegally exporting computer equipment from the United States to a nuclear research agency of the Pakistani government.
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  • Laredo men receive significant sentences for trafficking $4 million of marijuana
    In Justice News
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  • Gender Pay Differences: The Pay Gap for Federal Workers Has Continued to Narrow, but Better Quality Data on Promotions Are Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    The overall pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce has narrowed considerably, from 19 cents on the dollar in 1999 to 7 cents in 2017, but the current pay gap is greater for certain groups of women, according to GAO's analysis of data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Two trends help explain why the pay gap has narrowed: (1) men and women have become more similar in measurable factors related to pay, such as occupation; and (2) women have earned slightly higher rates of pay increases than men. In 2017, most of the overall pay gap—or 6 of 7 cents on the dollar—was not explained by differences between men and women in measurable factors (see figure). This unexplained portion of the pay gap may be due to factors not captured in the data GAO analyzed, such as work experience outside the federal government, or factors that cannot be measured, such as discrimination and individual choices. In 2017, the overall and unexplained gaps were greater for certain groups. For example, compared to White men, the unexplained gap was greater for Hispanic/Latina, Black, and American Indian or Alaska Native women than for White and Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander women. Pay Gap between Men and Women in the Federal Workforce, 1999 to 2017 OPM and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have taken steps to analyze data on the pay gap and help agencies address it. From 2014 to 2016, OPM implemented a government-wide strategy to address the pay gap, and officials said their future efforts will include monitoring the pay gap periodically. EEOC annually collects workforce data from agencies and provides related technical assistance, and officials said they plan to expand these efforts. These data include promotions by gender and race and ethnicity, which EEOC and agencies use to identify potential barriers to career advancement, but GAO found these data were not sufficiently complete. Of the 51 data tables GAO requested, 35 were either missing or had at least one incomplete data element. EEOC officials said this is partly due to promotion applicants not being required to provide demographic information. However, EEOC has not fully assessed the reliability of these data and generally does not follow up with agencies about missing data between technical assistance visits. Without taking steps to assess and improve the quality of these data in a timelier manner, EEOC may miss opportunities to ensure equal opportunity for all promotion applicants. As the nation's largest employer, the federal government employed about 2.7 million workers in 2019. Although the pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce is smaller than it is for the entire U.S. workforce and has narrowed over time, studies show that pay disparities continue to exist. GAO was asked to explore the current status of pay equity in the federal workforce. This report examines how the pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce has changed since 1999, and what factors account for any remaining gap; and the extent to which OPM and EEOC have monitored and taken steps to address the pay gap in the federal workforce, including assessing potential disparities in promotions; among other objectives. GAO analyzed OPM's Enterprise Human Resources Integration data on about 2.1 million federal employees from September 1999 to September 2017 (the most recent reliable data available at the time of GAO's review); reviewed federal agency promotion data collected by EEOC for fiscal years 2015 through 2017 (the most recent available data); and interviewed OPM and EEOC officials and reviewed relevant documentation. GAO recommends that EEOC take steps to assess the quality of federal agency promotion data and address missing data with agencies in a timelier manner. EEOC neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Cindy Brown Barnes at (202) 512-7215 or brownbarnesc@gao.gov.
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  • Financial Assistance: Lessons Learned from CARES Act Loan Program for Aviation and Other Eligible Businesses
    In U.S GAO News
    The CARES Act authorized up to $46 billion for the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to make loans to aviation and other eligible businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 267 applications submitted to the loan program, 35 loans providing $21.9 billion in assistance were executed. Treasury officials do not expect to make any additional loans before Treasury's authority to make loans expires. Applications and Loans for CARES Act Loan Program for Aviation and Other Eligible Businesses, by Category in Statute Type of business Number of applications submitted Assistance sought/available (billions of dollars) Number of loans executed Assistance provided (billions of dollars) Passenger air carrier, repair station operator, and ticket agent 183 35 / 25 23 21.2 Cargo air carrier 10 0.8 / 4 1 0.002 National security business 74 2.6 / 17 11 0.7 Total 267 38.3 / 46 35 21.9 Source: GAO analysis of Department of the Treasury data | GAO-21-198 Note: Pub. L. No. 116-136, § 4003(b)(1)-(3). Participation in the loan program varied across business types due to timing of decisions and other factors, according to stakeholders. Treasury prioritized applications from the largest passenger air carriers and executed loans with seven of them for nearly $20.8 billion. For other applicants, including smaller passenger air carriers and ticket agents, the amount of time Treasury took to evaluate their applications and other challenges affected the number of loans executed, according to selected industry associations. Treasury's authority to make new loans under this program is set to expire in December 2020, and the loan program offers Congress and Treasury lessons for designing and implementing programs of this type in the future. For example: Multiple programs, or multiple paths within a program, may better accommodate businesses of varied types and sizes. It is difficult to implement a program quickly for a wide range of businesses. In addition, a loan program well suited to large, financially sophisticated applicants will not likely be well suited to smaller businesses. Setting and communicating clear program goals could better align lender and borrower expectations. Treasury viewed itself as a lender of last resort but did not state this view in published documents. This omission led to some applicants being surprised by parts of the process, such as when Treasury encouraged over a third of all applicants to apply to another loan program before continuing to pursue a loan from Treasury. Communicating clear timelines for action can also help align lender and borrower expectations. The lack of a published timeline resulted in frustration among some applicants when loans were not made more quickly. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in catastrophic loss of life and substantial damage to the global economy, including the aviation sector. U.S. passenger air carriers have lost almost $20 billion and over 47,000 jobs in 2020, with losses forecast to continue into 2021. In March 2020, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the CARES Act, which provides over $2 trillion in emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including businesses in the aviation sector. The CARES Act contained a provision for GAO to review the loans provided under the Act. This report examines, among other things, eligible businesses' participation in the loan program and lessons learned from the program for Congress and Treasury. GAO reviewed Treasury documents and data on applications received and loans executed; interviewed Treasury officials on the design and implementation of the program; and interviewed eight industry associations that represent the range of businesses eligible for loans, eight passenger air carriers, and other selected applicants to gather their views on the program. GAO will continue to monitor and report on CARES Act assistance to the aviation industry. This oversight includes the loan program and another Treasury program—the Payroll Support Program—that provided assistance to certain aviation businesses to continue paying employee wages, salaries, and benefits. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • North Carolina Sport Supplement Company and Its Owner Plead Guilty to Unlawful Distribution of Steroid-like Drugs
    In Crime News
    A North Carolina resident and his sport supplement company pleaded guilty today to a felony charge relating to the introduction of unapproved new drugs into interstate commerce, the Department of Justice announced.
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  • 2021 Investment Climate Statements Released
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Travel to the People’s Republic of China and Oman
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against Tampa, Florida, Towing Company for Unlawfully Selling Car Belonging to Deployed Servicemember
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida alleging that Target Recovery Towing Inc. and Target Recovery & Transport Inc. (together “Target”) violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), by failing to obtain a court order before auctioning off a car belonging to a U.s. Marine Corps Sergeant who was deployed overseas.  
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  • Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Labor
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified seven priority recommendations for the Department of Labor (DOL). Since then, DOL has implemented one of those recommendations by taking steps to collect better data on how advanced technologies are changing the workplace, which can help DOL and policymakers design training programs that meet the job needs of the future. In May 2021, GAO identified three additional priority recommendations for DOL, bringing the total number to nine. These recommendations involve the following areas: stronger protections for wage earners; enhancing unemployment insurance; and better protections for retirees. DOL's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Thomas Costa at (202) 512-4769 or costat@gao.gov.
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  • Statement by Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen on the Pakistani Proceedings Relating to the Abduction and Murder of Daniel Pearl
    In Crime News
    Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen has released the following statement:
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  • Civil Monetary Penalties: Federal Agencies’ Compliance with the 2020 Annual Inflation Adjustment Requirements
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In this fifth annual review, GAO found that the majority of federal agencies that could be subject to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended (IAA), have complied with the provisions of the act to publish 2020 civil monetary penalty inflation adjustments in the Federal Register and report related information in their 2020 agency financial reports (AFR), or equivalent. However, two agencies did not publish inflation adjustments in the Federal Register as of December 31, 2020, and did not report the required information in their 2020 AFRs for one or more of their civil monetary penalties. Why GAO Did This Study The IAA includes a provision, added in 2015, requiring GAO to annually submit to Congress a report assessing agencies' compliance with the annual inflation adjustments required by the act. This is the fifth annual report responding to this requirement. For more information, contact Paula M. Rascona at (202) 512-9816 or rasconap@gao.gov.
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  • Colorado Businessman Indicted for Employment Tax Fraud
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Denver, Colorado, returned an indictment charging a Bow Mar, Colorado, businessman with tax evasion, failing to pay over employment taxes, and failing to file tax returns.
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