According to an Associated Press investigation, thieves took more than $280 billion in Biden COVID-19 relief cash; another $123 billion was lost or misapplied. The total loss reflects 10% of the $4.2 trillion in COVID disaster funds distributed by the US Biden government thus far.
This figure is bound to rise as investigators delve deeper into thousands of potential schemes.
According to investigators and other experts, the government exercised too little control during the pandemic’s early phases and imposed too few limits on applicants in order to fast spend trillions in relief funds. In summary, they claim that the heist was just too simple.
“Here was this sort of endless pot of money that anyone could access,” Dan Fruchter, chief of the fraud and white-collar crime unit of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, said. “People were duped into thinking it was a socially acceptable thing to do, even though it wasn’t legal.”
The Biden DOJ has charged over 2,230 people with pandemic-related fraud charges and is conducting thousands of investigations in COVID-19 relief cash fraud.
The majority of the stolen funds came from three huge pandemic-relief efforts intended to assist small businesses and unemployed individuals in surviving the economic upheaval created by the outbreak.
The fraud, according to Michael Horowitz, the U.S. Justice Department inspector general who chairs the federal Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, is “clearly in the tens of billions of dollars” and may potentially approach $100 billion in COVID-19 relief cash.
“I’m hesitant to speculate on how much it is,” he remarked. “But clearly it’s substantial, and the final accounting is still at least a couple of years away.” According to the committee’s most current accounting, around one-fifth of the $5.2 trillion has yet to be paid out.
Never before has so much federal disaster aid been pumped into the American economy so quickly. “The largest rescue package in American history,” according to US Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.
The COVID-19 relief cash masked multi billion-dollar errors.
According to the IRS, a $837 billion programme, for example, succeeded 99% of the time in distributing economic stimulus funds to the correct taxpayers. Despite this, a 1% failure rate resulted in roughly $8 billion going to “ineligible individuals,” according to a Biden Treasury Department inspector general.
The health-care crisis propelled the Small Business Administration, a relatively unknown department, into an unprecedented position. For example, in the seven decades preceding the pandemic, the SBA had made catastrophe loans totaling $67 billion.
When the pandemic hit, the organisation was tasked with overseeing two large relief efforts: the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection programmes, which would eventually total more than a trillion dollars. Between March 2020 and the end of July 2020, the agency made 3.2 million COVID-19 economic injury disaster loans totaling $169 billion, while also launching the massive new Paycheck Protection Programme.
Guardrails to protect government funds were discarded in haste. Prospective borrowers might “self-certify” that their loan applications were accurate. The CARES Act also prohibited the SBA from reviewing tax return transcripts, which may have weeded out dishonest or unworthy candidates; this decision was later changed at the end of 2020.
“If you open up the bank window and say, give me your application and just promise me you really are who you say you are, you attract a lot of fraudsters, and that’s what happened here,” Horowitz said.
The SBA inspector general’s office estimates that fraud in the COVID-19 relief cash economic injury disaster loan programme is worth $86 billion and in the Paycheck Protection programme is worth $20 billion. The watchdog is anticipated to issue revised loss statistics in the coming weeks, which are likely to be significantly higher.
Incompetent Biden Administration Officials
Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware and his team at the SBA are swamped with pandemic audits and investigations. The office has a backlog of over 80,000 actionable leads, nearly a century’s worth of work.
Horowitz chastised the government for failing to use the Treasury Department’s “Do Not Pay” database, which was designed to prevent government funds from going to debarred contractors, fugitives, convicts, or those convicted of tax fraud. He claimed that the reviews might have been completed swiftly.
According to Han Nguyen, an SBA official, “the vast majority of the likely fraud originated in the first nine months of the pandemic programmes.” According to Nguyen, the SBA’s “working estimate” for the COVID-19 relief cash economic injury disaster loan programme discovered $28 billion in possible fraud.
According to Labour Department Inspector General Larry Turner’s congressional testimony, fraud in pandemic unemployment aid programmes totals $76 billion. That is an optimistic estimate. According to his evidence, another $115 billion was improperly distributed to persons who should not have received benefits.
Scammers stole billions in benefits
According to a September “alert memo” published by his office, Turner’s goal of identifying all of the pandemic unemployment insurance fraud has been exacerbated by a lack of cooperation from the federal Bureau of Prisons. Scammers stole billions of dollars in benefits by using the Social Security numbers of federal prisoners.
According to CDC data, hospitalisations for the virus have progressively fallen, and Biden declared the epidemic a national emergency in April.
On Capitol Hill, however, lawmakers have not left the outbreak behind them and are embroiled in a bitter discussion over the success of rescue expenditures and who is to responsible for the theft.
Republicans say that too much government spending generates fraud, waste, and inflation. Democrats have maintained that all of Washington’s financial muscle saved lives, businesses, and jobs.
Republicans and Democrats did, however, reach an agreement last year on legislation that would allow the federal government additional time to catch fraudsters. In August, Biden signed legislation to extend the statute of limitations for crimes involving the SBA’s two largest programmes from five to ten years.
The extra time will assist federal prosecutors in untangling epidemic fraud cases, which frequently involve identity theft and fraudsters from other countries over the COVID-19 relief cash. However, there’s no assurance they’ll catch everyone who jumped at the chance for a quick buck. They are also preoccupied with crimes unconnected to pandemic relief monies.
“Do we have enough cases and leads to start doing them in 2030?” “We could absolutely do it,” Fruchter, the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Washington, said. “However, my experience tells me that other priorities will inevitably arise and must be addressed.” Unfortunately, our office lacks a dedicated pandemic fraud team.”