Politics

Federal watchdog report says nearly $100 billion in coronavirus relief funds were fraudulently dispersed

A new report from the federal watchdog overseeing the trillions in approved coronavirus relief funds says several relief programs potentially disbursed nearly $100 billion in fraudulent relief money.

Working with inspectors general from several key federal agencies, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, in its report published Wednesday afternoon, identified fraud within programs, including those designed to aid small businesses and unemployed individuals. “This is an unprecedented amount of money,” the report said. “And most of the funds were disbursed quickly. These factors put the money at a higher risk of fraud.”

The federal unemployment insurance program provides up to a $600 weekly in addition to the state unemployment payout. But the report found the program will disburse nearly $87 billion in fraudulent unemployment insurance payments before its expiration this month. Democrats championed the program, claiming that it was a necessary safety net for people whose jobs were wiped out by the pandemic, but Republicans have long challenged it.

Though the program technically expires in September, it has already been rolled back in many Republican-controlled states. Republican leaders said the program incentivizes people to stay home by in some cases paying them more than low-wage jobs.

The report also detailed problems with the paycheck protection program, a small business COVID-19 relief measure. That program allowed small businesses to receive federal loans that would be forgiven if at least 60% of the borrowed funds were used to keep employees on the payroll, but the watchdog group found issues with representation and fraud.

Despite claims that small business loans would be given to women, minorities and veterans, the report found “no evidence that small businesses in underserved and vulnerable communities” received the loans. Stimulus checks were also not immune to fraud. The watchdog found that nearly 2.2 million checks worth nearly $3.5 billion were issued to deceased individuals [ABC News].

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WASHINGTON POST

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