Last week, the White House revealed that President Biden plans to ask Congress for $1.6 billion to combat pandemic relief fraud and aid the victims of identity theft, Reuters reported.
The $1.6 billion includes $600 million to investigate large-scale relief fraud perpetrated by criminal syndicates, another $600 million for identity theft protection, and $400 million to help those who had their identities stolen.
Additionally, the president is asking Congress to increase the statute of limitations to ten years for those who committed unemployment insurance theft during the pandemic, according to the White House.
The requested funding would triple the size of the Justice Department’s COVID Strike Force teams which have led the effort to recover fraudulently obtained pandemic relief. The funding would also improve the IdentityTheft.gov website where individuals can report identity fraud and receive identity theft recovery assistance.
Federal investigators are already investigating multiple fraud cases linked to pandemic assistance programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program and the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits.
Last month, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee reported that the federal government dolled out about $5.4 billion in fraudulent pandemic relief to 69,323 applicants with “questionable Social Security Numbers.”
In September, the Labor Department’s Office of the Inspector General concluded that fraudulent claims in expanded unemployment insurance during the pandemic likely amounted to $45.6 billion. The IG’s office found that 205,766 Social Security numbers from dead people were used to file fraudulent pandemic-related unemployment benefits.
White House advisor Gene Sperling, who oversees pandemic relief, told reporters last week that the president’s renewed focus on relief fraud had nothing to do with the pending investigation in the Republican-controlled House. Sperling claimed that the White House has been “actively focused” on pandemic relief fraud since “day one.”
House Republicans plan to investigate the trillions of dollars spent on pandemic relief under both former President Trump and President Biden.