WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report indicates a staggering amount of funding earmarked for pandemic unemployment relief aid in the United States has – through both foreign criminal enterprises and domestic bureaucratic errors – not ended up in the hands of its intended recipients, and has been stolen and/or lost.
A whopping $400 billion of American taxpayer dollars that was originally meant to go to American families and businesses that had been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in 2020 and the Coronavirus Response and Consolidated Appropriations Act in 2021 – is estimated to have never been distributed to those in need, instead ending up in the hands of crooks in China, Nigeria, Romania, and Russia.
The vast majority of that $400 billion – perhaps as much as half – is said to have allegedly been taken by foreign crime syndicates, begging national security questions regarding how secure U.S. governmental computer systems can be if a criminal entity from another country can steal such a large amount of wealth from American citizens.
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In addition, U.S. Department of Labor Inspector General Larry Turner confirmed in March that $163 billion of those pandemic-related unemployment funds were likely lost by benefits fraud that could have been caught early if not for bureaucratic errors and identity theft.
However, the quick rollout of unemployment funds left agencies on both the federal and state level – who had never had to deal with wide-scale fraud previously – ill-prepared to deal with it.
This revelation caused Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) to lambast local governments that were tasked with distributing pandemic assistance funds in a secure manner to those who truly needed them.
“Instead of a thorough examination of an applicant’s eligibility, many programs substituted this requirement with quicker self-reported information, which contributed to funds mistakenly being sent to deceased individuals; ineligible applicants, for fraudulent criminal schemes,” he said.
The majority of domestic fraud was the result of data breaches that allowed criminals to get a hold of people’s personal information, which experts say is then sold on the dark web for pennies on the dollar.
Woody Talcove, CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solution, estimated that the pandemic unemployment insurance fraud rate is approximately 18.71 percent, higher than the rate for any other U.S. government program currently existing.