Audit Finds Congress, Agencies Did Not Try To Stop Covid Bailout Fraud

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report that revealed Congress and other government agencies did not do enough to prevent billions of dollars of the COVID-19 bailout funds from ending up in the hands of fraudulent entities and scammers.

According to the report findings, Congress dolled out $4.6 trillion without much consideration for the prospect of fraud. The report also found that Congress removed legal requirements which would have mandated agencies to police fraud from massive coronavirus appropriation bills.

“Although federal laws have required agencies to submit specific internal control plans for relief funds in previous emergencies, there was no such requirement for the COVID-19 pandemic,” GAO wrote in the report.

The report also revealed that Congress restricted Small Business Administration (SBA) from using tax returns to determine a business’s eligibility for the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), forcing SBA to rely on self-certification. About half of the loans processed under the EIDL program should not have been approved.

The report added that even when Congress removed the restriction, SBA still did not bother verifying applications using tax returns.

“Specifically, the SBA OIG (office of inspector general) found that for about 4 months after Congress removed the tax return prohibition, SBA made 133,832 COVID-19 EIDL disbursements, totaling about $8.5 billion without proving applicant eligibility using official tax information,” the report stated.

The report revealed that 19 states in May 2021, according to the Department of Labor’s inspector general, did not bother to get the money back when they found that they had overpaid unemployment benefits. GAO also revealed that states and territories reported around $48.6 billion in overpayments across the UI programs from April 2020 to September 2022.

While the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was rightly ruled unconstitutional for excluding White males, GOA found that the program catered to minority fraudsters. SBA ran the program and collected data that could have been used to screen for fraud but failed to analyze the data to detect potentially fraudulent recipients.

According to GOA, the extent of fraud related to COVID-19 relief programs has still not yet been fully determined.

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