As Republicans take control of committee gavels in the House of Representatives, there is a wide array of topics ripe for oversight and investigation. But one item that should be at the top of their agenda is the massive fraud in pandemic-era federal relief programs, especially involving unemployment benefits.
The federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic unleashed unprecedented demand for unemployment benefits starting in March 2020. Congress responded with record benefit expansions, including adding $600 per week to all unemployment checks. Claims for state and federal unemployment benefits quickly surged to 33 million in June 2020—more than double the prior record. In all, nearly 1.6 billion unemployment checks worth $900 billion were paid out through Labor Day 2021. An individual collecting just average unemployment benefits nationwide throughout that time received $46,000 in checks—plus thousands more in stimulus checks and other government benefits.
Those huge payouts—and serious weaknesses in federal temporary benefit program design—attracted criminals intent on ripping off the system. The new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was the most vulnerable to abuse….