The U.S. government likely awarded about $5.4 billion in COVID-19 aid to people with questionable Social Security numbers, a federal watchdog said in a report released Monday.
The watchdog, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), said it "identified 69,323 questionable Social Security Numbers (SSNs) used to obtain $5.4 billion from the Small Business Administration's (SBA) COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (COVID-19 EIDL) program and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)."
The loans were disbursed between April 2020 and October 2022, the watchdog said in its report, which comes ahead of a scheduled Wednesday hearing by the Republican-led House of Representatives Oversight Committee on fraud in pandemic spending.
The United States is probing many fraud cases pegged to U.S. government assistance programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, unemployment insurance and Medicare. In May 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland launched a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force.
Last year, the U.S. Justice Department tapped federal prosecutor Kevin Chambers to lead its efforts to investigate fraudsters who used the pandemic as an excuse to bilk government assistance programs.
In September, the inspector general for the U.S. Labor Department said fraudsters likely stole $45.6 billion from the United States' unemployment insurance program during the coronavirus outbreak by applying tactics like using Social Security numbers of deceased individuals.
Also in September, federal prosecutors charged dozens of defendants, who were accused of stealing $250 million from a government aid program that was supposed to feed children in need during the pandemic.
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