The updated number is a significant jump from the $16 billion in fraudulent unemployment payments the bureau mentioned in its June 2021 alert, which looked at claims from March to October of 2020. Since then, there have been increases in payments linked to Social Security numbers from people who filed Claims in multiple states, who have died and who used suspicious email accounts in their claims – all considered high-risk areas.
The 2021 alert also found payments linked to Social Security numbers to federal prisoners as a high-risk area. In a Thursday note, the bureau said it could not update that number due to a lack of new data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which it declined to provide due to the burden the demand would create on the office’s resources and technology platform, the inspector. The general’s office said.
“Hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic funds have attracted fraudsters seeking to exploit user interface software – resulting in historic levels of fraud and other improper payments,” Inspector General Larry Turner said in a statement.
Lawmakers also put in place two other measures to help the unemployed. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance Program provided payments to the self-employed, the self-employed, independent contractors and some people affected by the outbreak, while the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program extended payments to those who had exhausted regular state benefits. These programs also ended by September 2021.
The Office of the Inspector General estimates that a total of $872.5 billion in pandemic-related unemployment benefits have been paid since March 2020.
The Office of the Inspector General said nearly one million Social Security numbers were used by people who applied for benefits in two or more states, resulting in benefits payments from more than one state. They have received nearly $29 billion in potentially fraudulent payments.
Nearly 206,000 Social Security numbers for the deceased were used to receive more than $139 million in potentially fraudulent benefits. And 1.7 million Social Security numbers linked to the suspicious email addresses were used to offer $16.2 billion in benefits.
In an earlier report, the Office of the Inspector General found that Social Security numbers for potentially ineligible federal inmates were used to provide more than $267 million in benefits.
The inspector general’s office said it had difficulty obtaining unemployment insurance data from government workforce agencies until the subpoenas were issued. In some cases, the data sent was incomplete or unusable.
The Office of the Inspector General also took issue with the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, which oversees the unemployment insurance program, saying the agency had not implemented the office’s previous recommendations including collaborating with state agencies to put in place effective controls to reduce fraud and working with Congress to require government agencies to match high-risk areas.
“ETA’s lack of adequate action significantly increases the risk of further UI payments to ineligible claimants,” OIG wrote in the memo.
In response to the memo, the agency said it continues to “actively and aggressively address fraud” in its unemployment compensation programs. She said she was committed to helping states combat “new and ever-changing types of complex fraud.”
The Office of the Inspector General also announced Thursday that more than 1,000 people have been charged with unemployment benefits fraud since March 2020, and there have been more than 400 convictions so far. It has opened more than 190,000 investigations into unemployment benefits fraud, a more than 1,000 times increase in the office’s unemployment insurance business.
The unemployment insurance system is not the only pandemic program that has fallen victim to fraud in the chaos caused by the pandemic.
The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, has suffered from questionable lending and rampant fraud, despite its success in helping many businesses continue to pay their employees during the pandemic.
In total, the program provided $813.7 billion in loans to small businesses, which were forgiven if the company spent the money on qualification expenses.
“These loans can only be considered fraudulent because the IGO did not complete a document-by-document review of loan files to confirm or resolve suspicious activity; however, our investigations demonstrated an unprecedented level of fraudulent activity. We are working to identify the full extent of PPP fraud. “.
CNN’s Hana Rabinovitch and Omar Jimenez contributed to this report.