U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance, today introduced the Recovering Fraudulent Claims Act. This legislation would establish the COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force to investigate alleged instances of fraud in the temporary unemployment insurance programs established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (P.L. 116-136) in March 2020. Further, this bill would require the Task Force to report back to Congress on its findings and provide insight into the amount of fraudulent unemployment insurance payments that have been recovered since the establishment of these programs and the number of individuals who have been prosecuted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Americans deserve to know where their hard-earned tax dollars are going, plain and simple,” said Thune. “Unfortunately, substantial amounts of fraudulent payments have been made through the COVID-19 unemployment insurance programs. This commonsense legislation would improve current federal efforts to recover these fraudulent payments and hold those at fault responsible.”
“Criminals have stolen hundreds of billions of dollars from funds that were intended to help those experiencing hardship during the pandemic,” said Crapo. “We must make every effort to protect American taxpayers from further abuse, and this bill will bolster the effectiveness of the task force that was established to do so.”
In June 2021, Axios reported that more than $400 billion in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims had potentially been issued through the COVID-19 unemployment insurance programs. In addition, the Foundation for Government Accountabilityalso estimated in June 2021 that the total amount of fraud through these unemployment programs could surpass $300 billion.
As a result of unprecedented fraud in the COVID-19 unemployment insurance programs, the U.S. Department of Justice established the National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force in an effort to investigate allegations of fraud and prosecute those responsible. However, it remains unclear how active this task force has been, how successful it has been in identifying and prosecuting the appropriate individuals or entities, or how much in fraudulent payments it has been able to recover. The Recovering Fraudulent Claims Act would make these federal agency efforts public and more responsive to Congress to ensure the appropriate actions are being taken to recover taxpayer dollars that were fraudulently obtained through these programs and hold those at fault responsible.