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Biden admin. reveals plan to tackle pandemic aid fraud

President Joe Biden is seeking $1.6 billion to tackle pandemic aid fraud. The White House says this funding request will be a part of the budget proposal he’s presenting on March 9.

On a call with reporters, White House senior advisor Gene Sperling said he would visit Capitol Hill this week to meet with lawmakers about Biden’s new pandemic anti-fraud proposal. Sperling said he believes there is room for bipartisan agreement on this topic.

Biden’s plan sets aside money to investigate and prosecute those engaged in major or systemic pandemic fraud. It also includes money for fraud prevention and help for victims of identity theft.

His proposal to curb fraud comes after the Republican-led House Oversight Committee held a hearing on fraud and waste in the spending of COVID-19 relief funds.

“These programs brought relief to many Americans, but with massive government spending comes opportunity for waste, fraud and abuse,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., during the February hearing.

The House Oversight Committee heard from a nonpartisan panel of witnesses, including Michael E. Horowitz, who oversees the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Horowitz’s team flagged more than 69,000 “questionable” Social Security numbers used to obtain more than $5 billion in pandemic loans and grants.

“Presumably for most of them, those are individuals who obtained on the dark web, or through other means, Social Security numbers that were previously stolen,” Horowitz explained.

The White House denied that the oversight hearing influenced the release of this plan, saying the focus on this pandemic anti-fraud proposal was in the works well before it knew who would hold the majorities in Congress.

There is still disagreement about who was responsible for setting up guard rails against this kind of fraud. While Republicans blame the Biden administration, Democrats quickly point out that this money began flowing under legislation passed under former President Donald Trump. Together, the Trump and Biden administrations approved nearly $6 trillion in pandemic relief funds.

Biden also plans to issue an executive order directing federal agencies on how to act on identity fraud, including modernizing systems to better protect people.

The White House did not give an estimated date for the executive order.

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