When the Democratic-controlled Congress doled out trillions of taxpayer dollars in economic relief and stimulus payments amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there were some Republicans and taxpayer advocates who warned of the lack of sufficient oversight and a high potential for waste, fraud, and abuse in the various hastily established emergency programs to distribute the funds.
Those warnings have since been proven prescient, as it has since been revealed by watchdogs that hundreds of billions of dollars, if not more, in taxpayer-funded pandemic relief were lost or stolen due to fraud, Just the News reported.
In fact, the Americans for Tax Reform organization has asserted that what occurred with the COVID relief funding was likely to be the “biggest fraud that the country’s seen” in its history.
“No one really knows what the true number is”
“The U.S. federal government has already dedicated over $5 trillion to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dan Savickas, of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, told Just the News. “These funds came with very few safeguards to ensure they ended up in the hands of families and businesses that actually needed it.”
“It’s estimated that every dollar of wages saved by the relief money cost American taxpayers $4.13. This is not to mention also the inflation that came as a result of this profligate spending,” he added. “Too many special interests were able to take advantage of the language of these relief bills to line their pockets, leaving taxpayers on the hook. This is just the waste we know about.”
Mike Palicz of Americans for Tax Reform told the outlet that it was “not an exaggeration that this is probably the biggest fraud that the country’s seen.” As for the soaring inflation that is a top concern of most voters, he said, “To have that driven by spending that’s gone to record-setting fraud is infuriating.”
Palicz went on to reference the “complete lack of oversight and safeguards from the beginning” with regard to the relief funds — which the Democratic majority had specifically rejected — and further suggested that “no one really knows what the true number is” in terms of pandemic relief fraud, other than that it is “really big, which is terrifying.”
At least several hundred billion lost to pandemic relief fraud
Just the News shared a few examples of pandemic relief-related fraud that has been uncovered thus far, including that at least $1 billion was improperly disbursed to foreign recipients outside the U.S., and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported losing at least $3.7 billion in fraudulently obtained pandemic relief.
That is just small beans compared to some of the other examples, though, such as a House subcommittee report that acknowledged that at least around one-tenth of funds made available through the Paycheck Protection Program, around $84 billion out of $800 billion, was lost through fraudulent loans.
The big kicker though came from the Labor Department Inspector General, who recently revealed that more than 1,000 individuals have been criminally charged thus far for fraudulently stealing at least $45.6 billion in unemployment insurance payouts. However, the Labor IG also revealed estimates that almost 20 percent of the $872.5 billion in pandemic UI funding, around $163 billion, was the minimum lost through fraudulent payouts, though the actual level of fraud was potentially even higher than that.
Fraud rampant with little or no oversight
The president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, David Williams, told Just the News that Congress was “so anxious to spend money, but they’re not anxious to do the oversight.” He further asserted that the funds were dished out so fast that there was no time for proper oversight, “And the grifters, the criminals, they know this — they know that the government doesn’t have these checks and balances in place.”
Of course, few in Congress will ever admit their culpability in the rampant fraud and resultant inflation after throwing around several trillions of taxpayer dollars, and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), chair of a House coronavirus subcommittee, actually blamed all of the fraud and inflation on the alleged shortcomings of the prior Trump administration.