Criminal organizations, including international cybercrime rings and opportunistic foreign actors, exploited a national crisis to steal billions from taxpayers. A new bill will pave the way to fight the fraud.
The bill, named the "Chase COVID Unemployment Fraud Act of 2022," was introduced by top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), alongside House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), House Committee on Oversight and Reform Republican Leader Rep. James Comer (R-KY), House Committee on Small Business Republican Leader Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), and House Committee on the Budget Republican Leader Jason Smith (R-MO). The bill is also originally sponsored by every Republican member of the Ways and Means Committee.
With unemployment fraud leaving taxpayers on the hook for $163 billion (and counting), and only a little over $4 billion recovered, the bill would jumpstart efforts to claw back federal funds and pursue recovery of fraudulent payments by ensuring aggressive identification, investigation, and prosecution of criminal fraud in pandemic unemployment programs.
House Democrats have ignored repeated calls for oversight hearings and continue to turn a blind eye to what is possibly the greatest theft of taxpayer dollars in American history.
Upon introduction of the legislation, Rep. Brady said:
“This may be the biggest government fraud perpetrated on the federal government. Fraudsters and criminals have stolen up to $400 billion from taxpayers while Democrats turn a blind eye and refuse to have even a single oversight hearing. Congress has a responsibility to protect American families and small businesses.”
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said:
“As Members of Congress, it’s our responsibility to stand up for the American taxpayer, and eliminate waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement across the federal government. Criminal organizations and hostile foreign actors have taken advantage of pandemic unemployment insurance and stolen billions of dollars from American taxpayers. This is unacceptable. That’s why I’m joining my fellow Republicans in introducing this bill to recover the billions lost to fraud and track down these predatory criminals.”
House Committee on Oversight and Reform Republican Leader James Comer (R-KY) said:
“Pandemic unemployment fraud is the greatest heist of American taxpayer dollars in history. Hundreds of billions of dollars were stolen by fraudsters, foreign adversaries, and international criminals. Not only is this gross mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, but it’s also a national security threat. Our bill, the Chase COVID Unemployment Fraud Act, aims to recover these stolen taxpayer dollars and provides targeted solutions to prevent future theft of unemployment benefits. We must ensure Americans’ hard-earned dollars are stewarded, not squandered, or stolen.”
House Small Business Committee Republican Leader Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) said:
“As elected Members of Congress, it is our duty to the American public to ensure taxpayer dollars are allocated and spent responsibly. Fraudulent actors have abused programs designed to assist small businesses and Americans in need, leaving them high and dry to fend for themselves during difficult economic times. Fraud is fraud, and these individuals need to be held accountable. The Chase COVID Unemployment Fraud Act is a strong step in the right direction to ensure accountability and the return of illegally acquired relief funds.”
House Committee on the Budget Republican Leader Jason Smith (R-MO) said:
“Over the last year, American families, whose wages have eroded under President Biden’s inflation crisis, have watched as hundreds of billions of their hard-earned tax dollars were lost to criminal activity and fraud because Washington Democrats have refused to put basic safeguards in place to protect against this activity. Congressional Democrats have walked away from their oversight responsibilities of getting to the bottom of how this happened, what they could do to prevent it, and even how much has fully been lost, leaving criminals to profit off the backs of taxpayers. I am proud to stand with my colleagues in sponsoring this commonsense legislation that will protect American families and businesses, ensure the federal government can aggressively prosecute pandemic fraud, and try to recoup the hundreds of billions which have been lost.”
Ways and Means Republican original co-sponsors of the bill include: Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC), Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ), Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL), Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS), Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV), Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC), and Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN).
The Biden Administration Has No Idea Exactly How Many Tax Dollars Have Been Stolen or Improperly Paid.
In February 2022, the White House estimated that 19 percent of total COVID unemployment insurance payments were lost to fraud – offering a low estimate of over $80 billion.
By contrast, the Department of Labor’s estimate puts that number much higher. Outside experts say the number could be as high as $400 billion.
In May 2022, the Washington Post reported that an estimated $163 billion were siphoned away by fraudsters, and that if the government’s best estimate is accurate, only 2.4 percent of wrongful payments have been recovered.
Republicans Are Fighting Against Unchecked Unemployment Fraud and Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars.
Last year, Rep. Brady, along with Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and top Republican leaders, introduced the Combatting COVID Unemployment Fraud Act of 2021 (H.R. 3268) to prevent fraud in COVID unemployment programs, recover fraudulently paid benefits, and provide relief for taxpayers and victims of unemployment fraud.
Ways and Means Republicans, led by Republican Leader of the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), have held two public meetings with industry experts to raise awareness and offer safeguards to taxpayer dollars. Watch those meetings here and here.
In May 2022, Republican Leaders sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding answers on the progress of the Biden Administration’s investigation into stolen taxpayer dollars.