(The Center Square) – Ahead of a congressional subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis announced that more than $10 billion in fraudulent payments made under federal pandemic relief programs have been recovered and returned to the federal government.
“These relief programs have been essential in helping Americans in need during the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” said U.S. Representative James Clyburn, DS.C., chairman of the subcommittee. “However, as the select subcommittee reported last year, the Trump administration failed to take basic steps to prevent expansive fraud against it. investigation and law enforcement have worked hard to repair the damage and recover funds for the American taxpayer.
However, federal agents under the Trump administration were investigating fraudulent payments as early as July 2020, months after the CARES Act funding was first distributed. The US Department of Labor found that there were initially $26 billion in improper unemployment payments made as a result of CARES Act funding. Reports from the Office of Inspector General have revealed that, through multiple federal agencies, more than $100 billion in federal pandemic relief money has been used for fraudulent purposes.
Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, the subcommittee released new data obtained from the Department of Justice, the Office of the Inspector General of Small Business Administration, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee and the United States Secret Service. It includes up-to-date figures on the efforts of federal investigative and law enforcement agencies to recover fraudulently obtained taxpayer funds.
It reports that more than $10 billion in fraudulent payments have been returned to the federal government, mostly paid through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the COVID-19 Economic Disaster Loan (COVID-19 EIDL).
Federal officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Department of Justice have criminally charged 1,481 defendants in 1,003 cases involving more than $1.07 billion in PPP, COVID-19 EIDL and insurance losses -pandemic unemployment (PUI), announced Clyburn.
There are at least 1,150 ongoing OIG investigations into PPP, COVID-19 EIDL and PUI fraud covering more than $2.4 billion in losses, according to newly released data.
OIG investigations have also led to at least 1,200 indictments related to pandemic-related fraud, which have led to more than 950 arrests and more than 450 convictions.
USSS investigators have also opened more than 1,000 fraud cases related to COVID-19 over the past two years. Their efforts resulted in the seizure of over $1 billion and approximately $86 million was returned to victims of crime.
Fraud officials from the DOJ, SBA, USSS and others will testify about their efforts before the subcommittee on Tuesday.
Their discussion of federal efforts to prevent, detect and prosecute pandemic relief fraud will be livestreamed on Youtube and the select subcommittee website.
The problems with fraudulent payments made by federal agencies have been going on for many years. Most recently, in October 2016, the United States Department of Labor submitted a legislative package to Congress, including proposed legislative changes that would help improve the integrity of the unemployment insurance program and high irregular payment rates. unemployment insurance. These proposals have been included in each of Trump’s budget requests since fiscal year 2018, but Congress has not passed them.
In addition, abusive payments made by federal government agencies totaled $175 billion in 2019, or $15 billion a month, according to PaymentAccuracy.gov, a US government website. That’s on top of the $2.25 trillion in taxpayer dollars spent on abusive payments from 2004 to 2018, according to a Congressional Research Service brief on the abusive payments law.
Open the Books, a nonprofit government spending watchdog, has consistently published examples of federal waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars. In 2020, he analyzed $2.3 trillion mistakenly spent by the US government since 2004. His auditors found that the costliest federal programs were Medicaid, Medicare and the Earned Income Tax Credit. In these three programs alone, 69% of the money spent — $121 billion — was abusive payments, according to Open the Books.
The deceased received $871.9 million in erroneous payments through Medicaid, Social Security, federal pensions and farm subsidies because agencies mostly failed to verify the deaths. In four years, the money sent to the dead has cost taxpayers $2.8 billion.
Open the Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski told The Center Square that billions of improper payments are “a stunning example of institutionalized incompetence”.