Exclusive: GOP Bill Would Combat COVID Funding Fraudsters by Giving More Time for Prosecutions

Greg Nash/Pool via AP

A group of Republican senators led by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) introduced legislation Tuesday to extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting those who abused taxpayer-funded coronavirus unemployment benefits, Breitbart News has learned.

Marshall, an obstetrician who has been vocal about issues surrounding coronavirus, is sponsoring the bill alongside Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Joni Ernst (R-IA).

The legislation, called the Pandemic Unemployment Fraud Recoupment Act, would extend the statute of limitations so that the federal government has ten years, rather than three to five years, to prosecute cases where certain coronavirus programs issued overpayments.

The programs addressed in the bill include:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
  • Lost Wages Assistance

“While millions of Americans worked hard to get through difficult financial times during the pandemic, others used the brief shutdown of our economy to scam billions in unemployment benefits,” Marshall said in a statement about the bill.

A recent report from the Department of Labor inspector general found that at least $191 billion in coronavirus unemployment payments could have been wrongly issued “with a significant portion attributable to fraud.” The figure represents more than 20 percent of the total federal and state payments issued overall.

The House Oversight Committee held a hearing in February on “waste, fraud, and abuse” of government COVID spending during which the comptroller general testified that more than 600 fraud cases from 2020 remain pending as a three-year statute of limitations approaches.

“My legislation extends the statute of limitations, so the courts have ample time to prosecute these schemers and reclaim the stolen funds,” Marshall added. “Let the cheats and fraudsters hear us loud and clear: your ‘free ride’ during the pandemic will cost you. We look forward to your day in court.”

Scott, a cosponsor of the legislation, noted the bill would allow the federal government to pursue both existing and new cases of suspected fraud.

“While millions of Americans turned to the federal government during the pandemic for support they desperately needed to survive, millions of others took advantage and exploited the system, cheating American taxpayers out of $191 BILLION,” Scott said in a statement. “That’s absolutely despicable, and we can’t let them get away with it.”

Blackburn, another bill cosponsor, likewise, slammed the estimated billions in fraud as an “unacceptable abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

“We cannot let scammers off the hook,” she added.

Write to Ashley Oliver at aoliver@breitbart.com. Follow her on Twitter at @asholiver.


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