Estimated costs and COVID-19 protective measures for the events of July 4, 2020

What GAO found

Federal agencies and state and local jurisdictions combined have spent millions of dollars for the estimated costs of the July 4, 2020 events in Washington, DC and Mount Rushmore. The various federal agencies involved in the events included the United States Capitol Police; the Executive Office of the President; and the Ministries of the Interior, Defense, Homeland Security, and Health and Social Services. Beyond the federal effort, the District of Columbia government (DC government), the state of South Dakota, and local law enforcement played a role in the events.

July 4th estimated costs for events in 2020


Estimated costs (dollars)

General event costs a


A fourth concert at the Capitol

3 888 607

Independence day fireworks


Hi America


Mount Rushmore National Memorial Events

3 917 289



Source: GAO analysis of estimated cost data provided by federal agencies and state and local jurisdictions. | GAO-21-458

aEvent overheads are those that cannot be attributed to a specific event.

Costs incurred were associated with federal contracts, equipment and personnel, such as overtime pay costs. GAO officials interviewed by federal agencies and state and local jurisdictions said they did not incur COVID-19 mitigation costs for the events because personal protective equipment (PPE) and other related supplies used came from existing stocks. Federal agencies and the DC government mainly used annual appropriations to fund events. The National Park Service also used the Centennial Challenge and Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act credit accounts to fund portions of the Salute to America and Mount Rushmore events and to cover costs incurred in connection with the fireworks display. The DC government used funds from other available appropriations to cover the cost of post-obligation events of its $ 18 million credit for FY20 security costs, including the estimated cost of 1 , $ 4 million from the events of July 4, 2020. United States Parks Police reimbursed $ 35,057 to state and local jurisdictions outside of Washington, DC for their costs associated with events in the district.

During the events of July 4, 2020, federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local guidelines issued by South Dakota and Washington, DC were in effect. These guidelines encourage event planners and the public to take a variety of measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Events held on federal property in Washington, DC, were to follow federal guidelines which included recommendations for 6-foot social distancing, the use of fabric face coverings, and frequent hand washing. South Dakota state guidelines were in effect for events at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Federal agencies and state and local jurisdictions have instructed their employees to follow relevant COVID-19 guidelines and have provided employees with PPE. In addition, federal and state agencies have made PPE, such as masks, available to the public.

Why GAO did this study

Since July 4, 1776, Americans have celebrated Independence Day through events organized in towns and villages across the country. In the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, visitors celebrated on the National Mall with parades, concerts, federally sponsored fireworks and, in 2019, the Salute to America. In 2020, further federally sponsored events took place at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal celebrations on July 4 in 2020 have required adjustments and precautions in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The GAO was asked to review the estimated costs associated with the events of July 4, 2020 and to describe the protective measures taken due to COVID-19. This report describes (1) the total estimated costs that federal agencies and state and local jurisdictions incurred for the federal events of July 4, 2020, the credits used to pay federal costs, and the extent to which the federal government reimbursed costs incurred by state and local jurisdictions and (2) protective measures that federal agencies and state jurisdictions have taken to help ensure the health and safety of the public, federal employees and other essential workers during events.

To perform this work, GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed staff in federal agencies and state and local jurisdictions about their estimated costs and actions during events in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, contact Kristen Kociolek at (202) 512-2989 or

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