Over $38 Million in Pandemic Assistance Issued to Dead People, Inspector General Reports
In 2020 and 2021, more than 3,000 dead people were issued federal pandemic assistance totaling over $38 million, according to a report by a U.S. Inspector General team investigating fraud. This revelation follows a February report that found 69,000 “questionable” Social Security numbers were used to obtain $5.4 billion in COVID-19 loans and grants. U.S. Inspector General Michael Horowitz estimated that up to $400 billion in COVID-19 assistance was issued fraudulently, with $163 billion to $191 billion related to the pandemic Unemployment Insurance program.
The Greatest Theft of American Tax Dollars in History
Chair Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) called the findings “the greatest theft of American tax dollars in history.” The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) was created in 2020 to track allocations from the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. PRAC’s 22 inspector generals are now tracking over $7.1 trillion in federal pandemic allocations on its webpage, which is accessible to the public.
Identity Fraud and Misuse
PRAC’s report found that of the 20,404 Social Security numbers verified as belonging to deceased individuals, 3,222 were used to secure pandemic assistance from the Small Business Administration and through the Paycheck Protection Program. PRAC data scientists determined that funds were disbursed in connection with applications using 305 of the 3,222 Social Security numbers, totaling nearly $38 million in potential fraud. The report also found instances of identity fraud and misuse, including applications filed after the number owner’s date of death and applications filed before the owner’s date of death but paid after.
Tracking Fraudulent Pandemic Assistance
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee is continuing to track fraudulent pandemic assistance, with its inspector generals monitoring allocations from the American Rescue Plan Act and other federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus packages. The committee’s “Do Not Pay” system is helping to verify the dates of death for Social Security numbers and prevent further fraudulent payments.
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