(TheLastPatriotNews.com) – In a mind-blowing revelation, a U.S. government agency disclosed that as much as $135 billion in unemployment benefits fell prey to fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal watchdog, shows that up to 15% of all unemployment benefits distributed during the pandemic were fraudulent payments.
Thus, between $100 billion and $135 billion in U.S. taxpayer money were siphoned off through fraud between April 2020 and May 2023, The New York Post reports.
The new GAO report has doubled the estimated stolen COVID unemployment money compared with the watchdog’s study issued to the House Ways and Means Committee in February.
The Post emphasized that the “actual level of fraud” with pandemic employment benefits could surpass the maximum $135 billion estimate even though the Biden administration allotted over $1 billion to detect, investigate, and prevent unemployment fraud over the abovementioned period.
“The full extent of [unemployment] fraud during the pandemic will likely never be known with certainty,” GAO informed in its report published Tuesday.
“The unprecedented demand for [unemployment] benefits and the urgency with which states implemented the new programs during the pandemic increased the risk of improper payments, including, but not limited to, those due to fraud,” the watchdog elaborated.
It disclosed states had reported the recovery of only $1.2 billion in fraudulent unemployment payments from the pandemic period – or only about 1% of the total estimated fraud sum.
Unemployment benefits were boosted in the March 2020 CARES Act, allocating an extra $600 in weekly benefits for up to 79 weeks, though the sum was later reduced to $300.
The GAO study was performed at the request of Republican U.S. Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho and Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri.
“These shocking estimates continue to grow, and, as GAO notes, we may never know the full scope and scale of fraudulent pandemic payments,” stated Crapo, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee.
“I am extremely alarmed by these findings and even more convinced that immediate action is needed to recover as much taxpayer dollars as possible… Every day President Biden spends ignoring this problem, the chances of recovering stolen tax dollars on behalf of these fraud victims grow less,” Smith commented.