“It is past time we learned how much of American taxpayers’ dollars have actually been given to fraudulent claims,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter (pdf) to Acting Inspector General Larry Turner on July 8. “We therefore urge that United States Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General conduct an official audit to determine to what extent did fraud occur in COVID-related unemployment assistance programs.”
Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), and 25 other House Republicans coauthored the letter.
The Republicans said that fraudulent activities are still running rampant across the country in unemployment insurance programs, citing a report from Turner’s office and a media report.
In the report (pdf) issued on May 28, the Labor Department Office of Inspector General said that the department and states were struggling to implement three pandemic-related unemployment insurance programs including the $600 supplemental unemployment payment. As a result, unemployed individuals can’t get timely payments.
Meanwhile, states also have a hard time detecting improper payments and recovering overpayments.
Twenty states didn’t perform certain required improper payment detection measures and 19 states didn’t perform required overpayment recovery activities, the report stated.
Around $5.4 billion in unemployment insurance benefits was likely paid to potentially fraudulent individuals between March 2020 and October 2020, the Labor Department said in an alert memorandum (pdf) back in February 2021.
Blake Hall, CEO of ID.me, told Axios that about $400 billion, as much as 50 percent of all unemployment payments, might have been stolen.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG) told The Epoch Times that they can’t provide any further information beyond the public information on their website.
“As a matter of policy, the DOL-OIG does not confirm, deny, or otherwise comment on the existence or non-existence of any audits or investigations beyond what is published on our website,” the spokesperson said.
The public information on the DOL-OIG website doesn’t show an active comprehensive audit as sought by the lawmakers is ongoing.
Many unemployment insurance fraud cases have been charged by U.S. attorneys during the pandemic, according to information released by the Justice Department (DOJ).
Antwine Demon Hunter, 24, from Las Vegas pleaded guilty to filing two dozen fraudulent unemployment insurance claims for over $250,000 on Wednesday.
Several days earlier, a male from Massachusetts, 68-year-old Alan Neal Scott, pleaded guilty in a case connected to pandemic-related unemployment insurance fraud.
Scott “submitted these [fraudulent] claims using his own identity as well as the identities of various individuals, including some who were not eligible for unemployment benefits as they were incarcerated at the time and could not have been employed as reported,” the DOJ said in a press release.
The DOJ lists unemployment insurance fraud as one of the four major scams related to COVID-19 on their website.