Federal Watchdog Report: $5.2B Covid-19 Aid Likely Awarded to Individuals with Questionable SSNs
The United States government potentially awarded around $5.4 billion in COVID-19 aid to individuals with questionable Social Security numbers, per a federal watchdog report rolled out on Monday.
According to the said watchdog, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), it “identified 69,323 questionable Social Security Numbers (SSNs) used to obtain $5.4 billion from the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (COVID-19 EIDL) program and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).”
The loans were disbursed between April 2020 and October 2022, according to the watchdog’s report, which was released ahead of a hearing on fraud in pandemic funding scheduled for Wednesday by the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, which is dominated by Republicans.
By August 2020, about 57,500 forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling $3.6 billion had been granted, according to the report.
The Paycheck Protection Program, Medicare, and unemployment insurance are just a few of the U.S. government assistance programs that are the subject of numerous fraud investigations. A COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established by Attorney General Merrick Garland in May 2021.
Kevin Chambers, a federal prosecutor, has been tapped by the Justice Department to lead its investigation into fraudsters who used the COVID-19 pandemic to take advantage of government aid programs.
The report shows “the significant fraud and identity theft that occurred under the prior administration due to the lack of basic anti-fraud controls, as well as how consequential were the Biden administration’s quick actions to reinstate strong anti-abuse measures in these emergency small business programs,” per Gene Sperling, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden.
According to the watchdog report, the U.S. Controls for the Small Business Administration’s aid programs have been improved. That year, in January, Biden was sworn in as president.
The U.S. inspector general released a report in September. According to the Labor Department, fraudsters used strategies including exploiting deceased people’s Social Security numbers to steal $45.6 billion from the United States’ unemployment insurance program during the coronavirus pandemic.
Federal prosecutors brought charges against dozens of individuals, also in September. They were suspected of stealing $250 million from a government aid program that was intended to feed needy children during the pandemic.