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Ways and Means Republicans Seek Answers on Hundreds of Billions in Fraudulent Unemployment Benefits

February 09, 2023

Washington, DC – After President Biden once again declared “the watchdogs are back” during the State of the Union yesterday, a hearing on unemployment insurance fraud convened by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) revealed that the federal government still does not know exactly how much money was stolen by criminals in unemployment benefits.

Testimony submitted by the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General included a revised estimate of improper payments made in the unemployment insurance fund of $191 billion, up from $163 billion, and in their own words, “with a significant portion attributable to fraud.” This is exactly the type of fraud and waste taxpayers expect Congress to combat.

Today’s hearing laid the groundwork for getting answers as to the size and scope of unemployment insurance fraud after committee Democrats spent the past two years in the majority preventing oversight hearings and blocking common-sense guardrails to prevent foreign and domestic thieves from stealing Americans’ unemployment benefits.


Click here to watch Chairman Smith’s opening statement.

During the hearing, Chairman Smith pointed out that unemployed Americans paid the price for Democrats rejecting Republican attempts to protect taxpayers from fraud on the $878 billion in unemployment benefits:

Click here to watch Chairman Smith’s remarks.

The unemployment benefits passed in the CARES Act came at a time when millions of Americans were losing their jobs overnight as government shut down businesses and ordered people to stay at home. Livelihoods were ripped away. There’s no question folks needed help, which is exactly why Congress should have protected this program and those who needed it against the criminals who exploited it to commit fraud.

UI fraud is not a victimless crime. For example, a Utah woman lost her job after a cyber-criminal stole her identity, bank account information, and weekly benefit check. Many more Americans have stories just like hers. Unemployment insurance meant to help them get through temporary joblessness was stolen, their most sensitive information compromised by criminals, while Democrats in Washington turned a blind eye.

Chairman Smith laid out step-by-step the ways that committee Democrats, when they were in the majority, blocked committee Republicans at every turn from putting in place protections for taxpayers and those who qualified for benefits:

Click here to watch Chairman Smith’s remarks.

“With these varying estimates, it’s clear that the Biden Administration and Congress are in the dark about the size and scope of the greatest theft of taxpayer dollars in American history. The new Republican majority is turning on the lights.

“As the evidence of fraud escalated, I am sorry to say that Democrats continued to turn a blind eye.

“They ignored two requests from House Republicans on this committee to hold an oversight hearing just like the one today.

“Democrats blocked a congressional resolution to get answers about what the Department of Labor knew about funds going to international crime rings.

“Democrats even voted to end the identity verification requirements and phaseouts of emergency UI programs they had previously supported in December of 2020.

“Republicans proposed amendments to protect taxpayers and those who needed to get unemployment benefits. Democrats rejected them outright. Instead, they unilaterally extended unemployment benefits in their so-called bailout bill.”

Last year, President Biden announced the creation of a “Chief Pandemic Prosecutor” in his State of the Union. Yet the position currently sits vacant. Last night, President Biden once again talked tough in his State of the Union. Unfortunately, the record shows Democrats have spent years ignoring this problem, and officials at today’s hearing admitted it could be months before the federal government produces a new estimate of how much money was lost to thieves and international crime rings: