Some experts say unemployment fraud during the coronavirus pandemic could easily reach $400 billion, with most of that money likely ending up in the hands of international crime syndicates in China, Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere, Axios reports.
The federal government has allocated more than $896 billion to state unemployment insurance programs since March 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, including enhanced benefits of $300 a week.
But many states weren’t prepared for the influx of unemployment claims filed in the first few months of the pandemic due to ancient computer systems, fewer workers to process claims and strict eligibility requirements.
Many eligible Americans struggled to receive funding at the time.
At least 70% of the money stolen left the country, said Haywood Talcove, CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions.
''These groups are definitely backed by the state,'' he said.
White House economist Gene Sperling told Axios the problem was inherited from the Trump administration.
''Widespread fraud at the state level in pandemic unemployment insurance during the previous administration is one of the most serious challenges we inherited,'' he said.
"President [Joe] Biden has been clear that this type of activity from criminal syndicates is despicable and unacceptable. It is why we passed $2 billion for UI modernizations in the American Rescue Plan, instituted a Department of Justice anti-fraud task force and an all-of-government identity theft and public benefits initiative.''
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