CV NEWS FEED // The Associated Press (AP) released a bombshell report detailing how hundreds of billions of dollars in government funds earmarked for COVID relief were either stolen or misused. The report calls the scandal the “greatest grift in U.S. history.”
The report states that “much of the theft was brazen, even simple.” The perpetrators of the scheme did not fit a uniform profile, but instead came from many regions and walks of life.
Fraudsters used the Social Security numbers of dead people and federal prisoners to get unemployment checks. Cheaters collected those benefits in multiple states. And federal loan applicants weren’t cross-checked against a Treasury Department database that would have raised red flags about sketchy borrowers.
Criminals and gangs grabbed the money. But so did a U.S. soldier in Georgia, the pastors of a defunct church in Texas, a former state lawmaker in Missouri and a roofing contractor in Montana.
In all, the AP estimates that at least $280 billion of COVID relief funds were stolen, while another “$123 billion was wasted or misspent.” That adds up to over $400 billion, 10% of the over $4 trillion in taxpayer money the federal government allocated to COVID relief; $3 trillion under President Trump and most of the remainder under President Biden’s “American Rescue Plan.”
AP notes that on top of this, an additional $1 trillion has yet to be paid out, which, when taken into consideration, brings the grand total to over $5 trillion. For comparison, the entire U.S. national debt as of June 13 was just shy of $32 trillion.
This immense and unprecedented amount of government money was advertised to help families who were hit especially hard by the pandemic.
The AP quoted Dan Fructher, a Washington state-based Assistant U.S. Attorney who specializes in fraud and white-collar crime. Fruchter called the government’s COVID relief fund a “sort of endless pot of money that anyone could access” and that “folks kind of fooled themselves into thinking that” stealing from it “was a socially acceptable thing to do, even though it wasn’t legal.”
Leah Barkoukis of Townhall wrote that the historic levels of theft occurred “because the government was looking to disburse so much so quickly, proper oversight was not conducted and there were too few restrictions on applications.”
Journalist Brad Polumbo pointed out, “This total of more than $400 billion means that the feds wasted or lost more COVID money than they actually spent on COVID-related healthcare expenses.”
“It’s maddening enough to think of how recklessly federal officials handled our taxpayer money during such a challenging time,” Polumbo continued. “But, as it turns out, the most fraud-rife spending programs were also the least effective ‘stimulus’ initiatives of all.”
U.S. Senator Rick Scott, R-FL, who serves on the Budget Committee, tweeted that the theft was “frustrating but not surprising. Washington’s wasteful spending, paired with the complete lack of accountability and oversight, is a recipe for disaster.”
CatholicVote’s Director of Governmental Affairs, Tom McClusky, said:
When the government offers billions of unchecked dollars at taxpayer expense, it is no surprise they are flooded with more corruption than an email from a Nigerian prince. The President and every Member of Congress who voted for this should be held personally responsible for reimbursing the taxpayer.