The U.S. Government Accountability Office, often called the “congressional watchdog,” is an independent, non-partisan agency that works for Congress. GAO examines how taxpayer dollars are spent. And they have had their work cut out of them. Imagine regularly auditing and providing recommendations that are regularly disregarded. Because that is what has happened with regard to managing the $900 billion dedicated to unemployment.
Back in November of 2020, the GOA found in its first audit during the pandemic that the number of claims for unemployment insurance benefits were not adding up as originally estimated. Basically, no one knew who was getting benefits. Without an accurate number, the GAO said the policy makers may not be able to respond accurately to the crisis at hand. So start counting. But no one heeded GAO’s advice.
June of 2021 comes around, and the GAO newest report identified nearly $8 billion in potentially fraudulent UI benefits paid from March 2020 through October 2020. The GAO expressed real concern for the program and recommended to DOL recommended more stringent responsibilities for managing the process of assessing fraud risks. So not only count but pay attention to who the benefit goes to! But no one heeded GAO’s advice.
Now the pandemic is over, and the GAO has come out with a new report with alarming results. According to the GAO estimate, between April 2020 and May 2023, the U.S. government may have lost between $100 billion and $135 billion in total fraudulent payments. That equated to about 15 percent of the roughly $900 billion spent on unemployment insurance. The watchdog came to its figure by sampling federal data, acknowledging that the full extent of unemployment fraud during the pandemic will likely never be known with certainty. No point in giving any more advice. No one listens anyway.
Outstanding job by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on article “Fraudsters may have stolen $1 of every $7 in covid jobless aid, watchdog finds” published by the Washington Post on September 12, 2023
Fraudsters may have stolen as much as $135 billion in federal unemployment aid during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, which found the theft encompassed roughly one out of every seven dollars set aside for jobless Americans during the public health crisis.
Federal watchdogs coupled the estimate with a fresh indictment of Washington, finding that the Trump administration, the Biden administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill had failed to fully remedy some of the legal and technological loopholes that allowed criminals to steal government money in the first place. “A magnet for rip-off artists.”