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New Estimate of Theft From Unemployment: $45.6B

Pandemic crimes prosecutor calls it 'unprecedented fraud'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2022 7:35 PM CDT
Pandemic Unemployment Theft Now Put at $46.5B
Attorney General Merrick Garland discusses his appointment of federal prosecutor Kevin Chambers, right, as the Justice Department's chief pandemic fraud prosecutor in March.   (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Newser) – The federal government has a revised estimate of the amount of money the US unemployment insurance program lost through fraud during the pandemic: $45.6 billion. Criminals collected the money between March 2020 and April 2022 through such tactics as using the Social Security numbers of dead people, CNN reports. The estimate released Thursday by the Labor Department's inspector general replaces the one issued a year ago of about $16 billion, per the Washington Post. Kevin Chambers, who leads pandemic-related enforcement for the Justice Department, called the findings "unprecedented fraud."

The government distributed the money to businesses and individuals to try to strengthen the economy during the coronavirus outbreak. President Donald Trump approved $3.1 trillion in funding in 2020 and President Biden another $1.9 trillion in 2021. Unemployment fraud was so widespread that federal investigators have barely made a dent two years into the process, per the New York Times. The government announced Thursday it has now charged 1,000 people with crimes related to jobless benefits committed during the pandemic. Hundreds of people are working on fraud cases in the offices of 21 inspectors general, and other agencies are involved. President Biden last month signed legislation doubling the statute of limitations to 10 years for some pandemic-related fraud, promising thieves that the government will find them. (Read more fraud stories.)

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