Two Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee asked Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to provide documents on the Biden administration’s knowledge of COVID-19 pandemic unemployment fraud.
Ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, wrote Walsh to request Department of Labor documents and an explanation on what’s being done to recover stolen taxpayer dollars.
Last month, a new report from the Labor Department’s Inspector General reviewed pandemic unemployment benefits in just four states over a six-month period, finding that 42% of funds were paid improperly and estimating that nearly 14% likely went to fraudsters.
“Fraud estimates range from $80 billion to as much as $400 billion, which is nearly half of all the COVID-19 unemployment aid,” Brady and Wenstrup wrote in their letter to Brady.
“The amount of UI [unemployment insurance] fraud is staggering, which is why congressional Republicans have repeatedly sought information about the billions of taxpayer dollars stolen due to fraud and worked to stop the ‘pay and chase’ model and improve accountability in pandemic unemployment programs.”
The lawmakers’ letter indicates the kinds of questions the Labor Department and others who oversaw trillions in pandemic spending are likely to face if, as expected, Republicans win control of the House in Tuesday’s election.
“The lack of a sufficient response and action from the administration to date is disappointing and unacceptable,” Brady and Wenstrup wrote.
The two say the administration and Democrat lawmakers still don’t know how many tax dollars have been stolen or improperly paid through unemployment insurance fraud.
Brady and Wenstrup also said that the administration and Democrat lawmakers have failed to take action, despite warnings from federal law enforcement agencies and Ways and Means GOP members’ demands for preventive measures and oversight hearings for at least two years.
Although the White House in February estimated that 19% ($80 million) of total COVID-19 unemployment insurance payments were lost to fraud, the Labor Department’s estimate puts that number much higher.
Brady and Wenstrup said outside experts say the number could be as high as $400 billion.
In May, Wenstrup presented a “resolution of inquiry” (ROI) to force top administration officials to respond with communications showing the Labor Department’s knowledge of unemployment insurance dollars flowing to international crime syndicates. Democrats rejected the move.
In June, Republican leaders introduced the Chase COVID Unemployment Fraud Act of 2022 aimed at going after criminal actors and recovering billions lost to fraud.
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