By Brett Rowland (The Center Square)
A US House committee hearing made clear that the total cost of fraud and waste in taxpayer-funded pandemic relief programs remains unknown.
Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability debated who was to blame for massive fraud in a range of federal pandemic relief programs, but they never answered a key question: Just how much fraud was there?
Related: IG Report ‘Historic’ $400 Billion in Covid Unemployment Funds Lost to Fraud, Waste
Federal officials have released estimates of losses for certain programs.
A federal Report More than $60 billion is estimated to have been lost in unemployment insurance fraud during the pandemic, revealed last week. The US Department of Labor reported that from April 2020 to September 2022, total unemployment benefits were paid out to be approximately $878 billion.
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee recently identified 69,323 suspicious Social Security numbers used to receive $5.4 billion from the Small Business Administration’s COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program and Paycheck Protection Program. The programs provided nearly $1.2 trillion in aid.
At Wednesday’s hearing, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosser, R-Arizona, asked federal experts whether the $560 billion fraud estimate was accurate.
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Determining the total cost of pandemic relief fraud will not be easy and final figures may take time, said US Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, head of the US Government Accountability Office.
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“It will be a while before the full extent of the fraud is known,” Dodaro said. “Over a thousand people have been convicted or pleaded not guilty, over 600 charges are still pending against people, the Small Business Administration Inspector General has 536 active investigations right now, the Labor Inspector General is opening 100 new ones. cases per week. So this is going to go on for a while. There are certainly indications of widespread fraud. But it is impossible to estimate the full amount right now.”
Lawmakers passed six COVID-19 relief laws that provided nearly $4.6 trillion for pandemic response and recovery. Of that, about $4.1 trillion was spent as of Nov. 30, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Syndicated with permission from Center Square.