There Has Been a Mind-Boggling Amount of Unemployment Fraud Since the CARES Act Passed – By Eric Boehm (Reason) / Feb 22 2021
Enhanced unemployment benefits may have helped many Americans weather the pandemic, but they’ve also attracted the interest of some modern-day Willie Suttons.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns caused a spike in unemployment across America. Now the government’s response seems to have triggered an explosion of unemployment insurance fraud.
At least $63 billion—an amount larger than the current annual budgets of 42 states—of the boosted unemployment payments distributed as part of the federal government’s pandemic response has been distributed improperly, according to an estimate from the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General. The office attributes a “significant portion” of those improper payments to fraud, and preliminary audits indicate that the actual amount of improper payments may be higher.
Since the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March of last year, the federal government has provided an estimated $630 billion in unemployment insurance payments, with the federal cash layered atop existing state-level benefits for workers who lost their jobs. The CARES Act initially provided $600 per week in boosted payments, and the most recent COVID-19 aid bill, passed in December, allows for $300 weekly, to be phased out starting March 14. President Joe Biden has proposed extending $400 weekly unemployment bonuses until the end of August.
Those enhanced benefits may have helped many Americans weather the pandemic, but they’ve also attracted the interest of some modern-day Willie Suttons. The inspector general reports “a forty-fold increase” in the number of fraud-related matters, which have “exploded” since the CARES Act passed.