President Joe Biden has requested $1.6 billion to target fraud related to coronavirus aid, the White House announced this week.
In a fact sheet released by the White House Thursday, the Biden administration pointed to what it described as a “historic degree of outright fraud and identity theft of emergency benefits” in relation to coronavirus relief programs over the years. And while the administration contends that the pandemic legislation of 2020 and American Rescue Plan of 2021 “were essential to mitigating the health and economic impact of this unprecedented pandemic,” the White House is seeking to punish those who took advantage of the opportunity and ultimately engaged in fraud. Throughout the pandemic and under both the Trump and Biden administrations, Congress approved $4.6 trillion in coronavirus-related spending.
Biden proposes a $1.6 billion Pandemic Anti-Fraud proposal, which includes $600 million for “resources & time for investigations and prosecution of those engaged in major or systemic pandemic fraud.” That includes tripling the coronavirus fraud “strike force” teams created by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and increasing the statute of limitations to ten years for “serious, systemic pandemic fraud.”
Biden’s plan allots another $600 million for investigating “fraud prevention and identity theft,” which vaguely includes an investment of $150 million “to ensure lessons learned are applied going forward.”
Finally, Biden’s plan gives another $400 million to assist victims of the crime of identity theft, which includes grants for victims as well as the creation of what the White House described as an identity theft “Early Warning System.”
Biden’s pitch comes as the federal watchdog Pandemic Response Accountability Committee estimated roughly $5 billion in potential coronavirus aid fraud.
Republicans, however, have already announced their intentions to investigate fraud related to coronavirus aid via the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s “Federal Pandemic Spending: A Prescription for Waste, Fraud, and Abuse” hearing, which took place in February.
“We have seen reports that between $163 to $400 billion in unemployment insurance benefits were paid out improperly,” House Oversight chairman James Comer (R-KY) said.
“We have seen reports that between $76 to more than $100 billion in Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury and Disaster Loans were lost to improper payments. We have seen reports that $266 billion in improper payments were made by Medicaid during the pandemic,” he continued, promising that they will continue to have “more hearings on this important issue.”
🚨 @RepJamesComer opened today's hearing by pledging to investigate the trillions of dollars spent on pandemic relief programs that were lost to waste, fraud and abuse.
We owe it to Americans to identify where the funds went and find ways to prevent this from happening again. pic.twitter.com/2tE3beEcU6
— Oversight Committee (@GOPoversight) February 1, 2023