Federal Investigators Want More Money to Go After Pandemic Fraud

Merrick Garland DOJ

The federal officials tasked with tracking down widespread fraud during and after the COVID-19 pandemic want more time and more money to finish the job.

The Justice Department’s COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, made up of nearly 30 federal agencies, released its 2024 report on Tuesday. The report details the efforts of the task force in response to fraud involving COVID-19 relief programs.

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IG Reports ‘Historic’ COVID Unemployment Funds Lost, Congress Investigates

Reports indicate as much as $400 billion in COVID-19 unemployment relief were likely lost to waste and fraudsters. Lawmakers want answers.

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor demanding documents and information related to the unemployment fraud.

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States Want a $20 Billion Federal Top-Off to ‘Zuck Bucks’ for Future Elections But They’re Already Sitting on a Pile

Graffiti of Mark Zuckerberg "You've been zucked"

Drawing on research from a multimillion-dollar Mark Zuckerberg-linked initiative viewed as pivotal in the 2020 presidential election, 14 states carried by Joe Biden have appealed to him for billions of dollars more to secure elections for the next decade. But most of them have spent less than half their shares of previous federal funding to counter alleged Russian election meddling and other “threats” to election security.

The states’ letter to the president cites a report by the Election Infrastructure Initiative, a progressive nonprofit that estimates $53 billion in taxpayer money will be needed to ensure election security over the next decade.

The Election Infrastructure Initiative is an arm of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which in 2020 distributed nearly $400 million in private grants – $350 million from Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan – to local election offices in 48 states and the District of Columbia for the pandemic-challenged presidential election.

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Small Business Administration Spends $14.8 Million in Questionable Costs for Underutilized Small Business Portal

U.S Small Business Administration

This week’s Golden Horseshoe is awarded to the Small Business Administration for lax oversight of a $25 million grant for the creation of a COVID-19 relief small business portal that ran up $14.8 million in questionable costs for an underutilized hub, according to a report by the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

The SBA’s Office of Entrepreneurial Development (OED) received $25 million through the CARES Act to create a portal to help small businesses during the pandemic. An $18.6 million grant was awarded for the Resource Partner Training Portal program, but the intended results were not achieved. A combination of a failed marketing strategy to let small businesses know of the portal’s existence and unsupported or unallowable invoices led the inspector general to question $14.8 million in costs.

“SBA did not did not ensure the grant recipient developed and implemented an effective marketing and outreach strategy to ensure the hub successfully achieved the legislative purpose of the CARES Act,” Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware stated in the report.

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Universities That Received Billions in COVID Relief Are Still Imposing Delays, Remote Instruction

In 2020, the federal government gave American colleges and universities approximately $14 billion in relief through the CARES Act. As part of the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, the CARES Act allocation mandated that approximately half its funds be used for emergency student aid.

Now, nearly two years after President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act in March 2020, numerous institutions that received aid are delaying in-person learning due to the Omicron variant.

By Jan. 7, seven out of 10 University of California campuses announced “revisions to their winter quarter or winter semester plans.” Winter sessions precede the spring semester, which traditionally starts in mid-to-late January.

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Commentary: Democrat Spending Bill Taxes the Rich and the Poor

“No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus. And that’s what I ran on.”

That was President Joe Biden on Oct. 28 unveiling his latest $1.75 trillion spending bill—watered down from $3.5 trillion after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) refused to budge on the topline number—that Congress is expected to vote on this week.

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Commentary: IRS Guidance Would Punish Small Business Owners with Families

Outside of IRS building

Most IRS guidance documents make for poor pleasure reading. Then again, most IRS guidance doesn’t effectively impose a retroactive tax on small business owners merely for having a family. IRS Notice 2021-49, issued on August 4, includes a bizarre interpretation of the law that will effectively raise taxes for business owners with close relatives, even if their family members have no involvement in the company.

A core goal of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed early on in the pandemic was to assist businesses in keeping employees on their payroll even as they dealt with the economic effects of lockdowns. Part of the plan was the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), which provides a tax credit against employer payroll tax liabilities.

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Florida Circuit Court Judge Hears Case Regarding CARES Act Reinstatement

Judge Layne Smith of Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit Court held a hearing Wednesday for a lawsuit filed against Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and its Secretary, Dane Eagle.

The complaint was filed on July 25th by attorneys on behalf of a group of Broward County residents in response to the $300-a-week in federal unemployment benefits – known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the ‘CARES Act’ – that were cut off in Florida on July 26th. 

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Atlanta, Dallas, Tampa, and St. Louis Among the Cities Experiencing the Highest Consumer Price Spikes

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve Bank and Congress have taken unprecedented steps to stabilize the economy after entire industries and sectors ground to a halt last year amidst the public health crisis. The Fed has kept interest rates near zero, created lending programs to pump trillions of dollars into the economy, and bought securities to support financial markets. Congress passed three major COVID-19 stimulus packages in response to the crisis: the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March 2020, the $900 billion Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in December 2020, and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in March 2021.

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