Nearly $30 billion more in COVID-19 unemployment benefits was incorrectly sent out than initially estimated, according to Wednesday's testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee.
DOL Inspector General Larry D. Turner estimated about $191 billion in total misspent payments. In 2022, Turner's office tracked a "significant portion" of $163 billion in questionable payments "attributed to fraud."
The Labor Department estimated that 21.5% of unemployment insurance benefits were incorrectly paid, in contrast to the 18.7% previously calculated.
Federal officials recognize they are unable to precisely calculate aid that was misappropriated.
Those benefits were among the government's programs designed to assist individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic.
Lawmakers focused on distributing money quickly, allowing for safeguards to be impeded by fraudsters. Now, the government has ramped up its efforts to recover the funds.
The House Oversight Committee held hearings with some of the same witnesses as Wednesday's by the House Ways and Means Committee, where officials expected to have gaps allowing for theft and fraud.
Dated technology and joint operations between the states and the federal government allowed the overwhelmed and particularly vulnerable unemployment system to struggle with correct appropriations.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Joe Biden called to triple "anti-fraud strike forces" to go after criminals, to "double the statute of limitations on these crimes and crack down on identity fraud by criminal syndicates stealing billions of dollars from American people."
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