New reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raise red flags about unemployment fraud during the pandemic that Democrats ignored despite Ways and Means Republicans’ demands for preventive measures and oversight hearings for at least two years.
GAO will place the program on the agency’s “high-risk” list, even as the Biden Administration issued guidance to make it easier for states to sweep fraudulent payments under the rug, instead of focusing on recovering fraud and prosecuting criminals.
House Ways and Means Committee Republican Leader Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) released the following statement:
“This troubling report says the federal government has no idea how much of the taxpayers’ dime has been lost in the greatest theft of tax dollars in American history – and that’s the point.
“With outside estimates of up to $400 billion, this fraud by organized cybercrime and international crime rings could represent half of all the COVID unemployment aid, or more than the entire 2021 budgets of the Army and Navy combined.
“Democrats have ignored repeated calls for congressional oversight hearings and to protect American taxpayers – it’s time for that to change.”
The Biden Administration Has No Idea Exactly How Many Tax Dollars Have Been Stolen or Improperly Paid.
- In February 2022, the White House estimated that 19 percent of total COVID unemployment insurance payments were lost to fraud – offering a low estimate of over $80 billion.
- By contrast, the Department of Labor’s estimate puts that number much higher. Outside experts say the number could be as high as $400 billion.
- In May 2022, the Washington Post reported that an estimated $163 billion were siphoned away by fraudsters, and that if the government’s best estimate is accurate, only 2.4 percent of wrongful payments have been recovered.
Ways and Means Republicans Have Sounded the Alarm on COVID-Related Fraud.
- Ways and Means Committee Democrats unanimously rejected a proposal offered by Ways and Means Republicans to verify the identity of applicants for unemployment benefits and get documentation prior to sending any money out the door.
- Requests for a joint hearing on fraud in pandemic-era programs have fallen on deaf ears and letters to the Biden Administration have gone unanswered.
- In February 2022, Republican Leaders sent a letter urging the Department of Labor to hold off on “reckless” guidance that would allow states to forgo recovery of overpayments in pandemic unemployment programs.
- In May 2022, Republican Leaders sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding answers on the progress of the Biden Administration’s investigation into stolen taxpayer dollars.
Republicans Are Fighting Against Unchecked Unemployment Fraud and Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars.
- While the Biden Administration calls for more COVID relief, Reps. Brady, House Budget Committee Republican Leader Jason Smith (R-MO), and House Energy & Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) demanded the Administration provide a detailed accounting of where the $6 trillion in COVID-19 funding has been spent.
- Rep. Brady, along with top Republican leaders, introduced the Combatting COVID Unemployment Fraud Act of 2021 to prevent fraud in COVID unemployment programs, recover fraudulently paid benefits, and provide relief for taxpayers and victims of unemployment fraud.
- Ways and Means Republicans, led by Republican Leader of the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) have held two public meetings with industry experts to raise awareness and offer safeguards to taxpayer dollars. Watch those meetings here and here.