WASHINGTON, D.C. – When the coronavirus hit the U.S., Congress quickly acted to provide relief to families, businesses, local and state governments to help offset the pandemic’s impacts. In a recent congressional report, it outlines billions in relief were given away to fraudsters and some blame the Trump administration for failing to establish policies to prevent and detect fraud.
Congress spent trillions in pandemic relief to help families and businesses when the coronavirus pandemic hit. According to the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, fraudsters took advantage of the pandemic aid aimed at helping those who needed it the most.
“With any government relief program, there were those here and abroad who saw pandemic relief as an opportunity for personal enrichment,” said Kevin Chambers, the director for COVID-19 fraud enforcement in the Department of Justice. “They purchased stolen identities and filed for unemployment insurance relief benefits using bank accounts opened online to receive the funds and money mules to help transfer the benefits overseas. They created fake businesses and received funds in the names of those imaginary companies.”
In a recent report from the committee, it said an estimated 64 to 117-billion worth of paycheck protection program (PPP) loans were questionable and possibly fraudulent. They estimate 163-billion dollars was overpaid in the pandemic unemployment insurance (UI) and other multi-billion-dollar pandemic relief programs were also taken advantage of. The democrats are pointing the finger at the former administration.
“The SBA Office of Inspector General similarly found that during the Trump administration, SBA failed to use efficient controls to prevent PPP fraud,” said Rep. James Clyburn (D- SC).
Members said in an attempt for accountability, data shows at least 15-hundred people have been charged with alleged fraud against pandemic relief programs and accuse many of the perpetrators to be operating outside of the U.S.
“One state received fake unemployment claims that came from IP addresses in nearly 170 different countries,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R- LA).
Members said so far billions have been recovered but they’re looking to recover even more.