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Tags: labor department | fraud | unemployment | pandemic | joe biden | covid-19

Labor Dept Watchdog: $45.6B in Pandemic Unemployment Fraud

By    |   Friday, 23 September 2022 08:01 AM EDT

An inspector general report released Thursday estimated $45.6 billion in unemployment benefits fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The finding comes as the White House is requesting Congress to add $22.4 billion more for COVID-19 aid in the next government funding bill, a request that flies in the face of President Joe Biden's "pandemic is over" remarks last weekend.

Republicans are talking about standing firm against more pandemic aid while there is still an estimated $2 trillion appropriated by unspent from past pandemic legislation, fiscal conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Newsmax this week.

While the new billions will be to fund improved vaccines, Republicans have argued they have tried to permit dynamic reallocation of past approved COVID-19 funding and assign oversight over spending.

The estimated $45.6 billion in unemployment fraud is still likely an underestimation of the total fraud, according to the American Enterprise Institute's Matt Weidinger.

"While these are shocking and huge, they fall far short of what we expect these numbers to be," he told The Wall Street Journal.

The latest estimate is almost three times last summer's $16 billion in unemployment fraud. There has been more than $872 billion paid out for unemployment since March 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Journal reported.

"The infusion of hundreds of billions in federal funds into the UI [Unemployment Insurance] program gave individuals and organized criminal groups a high-value target to exploit," according to the Labor Department inspector general report. "That, combined with easily attainable stolen personally identifiable information and continuing UI program weaknesses, allowed criminals to defraud the system."

The inspector general's findings have resulted in more than 1,000 criminals charged with fraud, Labor Department IG Larry Turner announced Thursday.

"This milestone of 1,000 individuals being charged with crimes involving UI fraud and the identification of $45.6 billion in potentially fraudulent UI payments highlights the magnitude of this problem," he wrote in a statement. "Hundreds of billions in pandemic funds attracted fraudsters seeking to exploit the UI program — resulting in historic levels of fraud and other improper payments."

Fraudsters used stolen social security numbers of prison inmates and dead people to obtain government checks. They also used fraudulent email accounts and filed for unemployment benefits in multiple states.

Republican senators in August introduced the Chase COVID Unemployment Fraud Act to recover funds from fraudulent pandemic unemployment payments and provide incentives for states to recover fraudulent payments.

"Early in the pandemic, Congress boosted federal unemployment benefits rapidly in order to assist the growing number of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic through no fault of their own," Collins wrote in a statement. "Unfortunately, far too many criminals took advantage of these federal unemployment insurance programs, resulting in widespread fraud.

"The government has an obligation to taxpayers to recover as much of this stolen money as possible. Our legislation would provide states with the resources to help recover these stolen funds and help prevent future theft of unemployment benefits."

Eric Mack

Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

An inspector general report released Thursday estimated $45.6 billion in unemployment benefits fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.
labor department, fraud, unemployment, pandemic, joe biden, covid-19
Friday, 23 September 2022 08:01 AM
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