A group of Republican senators sent a letter this week to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh asking for progress on the government’s efforts to prevent fraudulent COVID-19 funding claims, and to recoup any of the billions of dollars of relief funding estimated to have been stolen by fraudsters.

Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Todd Young, R-Pa., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Steve Daines, R-Mont., and James Lankford, R-Okla., asked for information on the efforts of the National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force (NUIFTF) to stop coronavirus-related fraud in unemployment  insurance (UI) programs that are run by states with assistance from the Labor Department.

“We continue to be concerned about the unprecedented amount of COVID-19 UI benefits that were fraudulent, and presently, we are seeking insight into the effectiveness of these task forces and other efforts by your agencies in recouping fraudulent COVID-19 UI benefits,” the senators said.

The letter points to recent testimony from Larry Turner, inspector general at Labor Department, estimating that 21 percent of COVID-19-era UI could have been misused, “with a significant portion attributable to fraud.”

The Government Accountability Office has estimated that fraudulent UI claims in the pandemic era have run as high as $60 billion.

The senators asked for answers on several fronts, including:

  • How many individuals have been indicted since the enactment of COVID-19 UI programs for obtaining or attempting to obtain fraudulent benefits;
  • Of the fraudulent COVID-19 benefits that the Federal government has yet to recoup, what is the dollar amount of these benefits that is believed to gone to U.S. citizens, and what is the dollar amount of these benefits that is believed to have gone to non-U.S. citizens;
  • What additional statutory authorities are necessary, if any, to improve the Federal government’s effectiveness in recouping fraudulent COVID-19 UI benefits?
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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.