(Washington, D.C., March 28, 2023) – Today, U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. led five of his Senate Republican colleagues on new legislation that would ensure accountability for individuals who defrauded American taxpayers by improperly receiving federal COVID-19 unemployment insurance (UI). The bill, titled the Pandemic Unemployment Fraud Recoupment Act, would give the federal government more time to prosecute fraud cases by extending the statute of limitations for overpayments in five COVID-19 UI programs.
“While millions of Americans worked hard to get through difficult financial times during the pandemic, others used the brief shutdown of our economy to scam billions in unemployment benefits. Justice will be served; these bad actors will not get away with this,” Senator Marshall said. “My legislation extends the statute of limitations, so the courts have ample time to prosecute these schemers and reclaim the stolen funds. Let the cheats and fraudsters hear us loud and clear: your ‘free ride’ during the pandemic will cost you. We look forward to your day in court.”
Joining Senator Marshall in introducing the Pandemic Unemployment Fraud Recoupment Act were U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (TN), Mike Bruan (IN), Kevin Cramer (ND), Joni Ernst (IA), and Rick Scott (FL).
“Reports indicate improper and fraudulent payments during the COVID pandemic top at least $191 billion – an unacceptable abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Blackburn. “We cannot let scammers off the hook. The Pandemic Unemployment Fraud Recoupment Act helps ensure we can hold them accountable and reclaim funds before it’s too late.”
“Anyone who collected fraudulent COVID pandemic funds needs to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. I hope this bill is passed by Congress so we can begin to recoup the billions of taxpayer dollars that were stolen due to false claims,” said Senator Braun.
“In response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, the federal government authorized extraordinary levels of financial relief for Americans during an unprecedented time,” said Senator Cramer. “Unfortunately, bad actors sought to take advantage of these benefits, committed fraud, and ultimately cheated taxpayers out of their hard-earned money. This bill provides much needed time for the federal government to identify and prosecute these bad actors and recover the stolen funds.”
“Fraudsters who cheated taxpayers and wrongfully took advantage of unemployment insurance during the pandemic must be held accountable,” said Senator Ernst. “Whether it takes two years or more, it is the federal government’s responsibility to recoup the stolen funds, prosecute bad actors, and prevent future theft.”
Senator Rick Scott said, “While millions of Americans turned to the federal government during the pandemic for support they desperately needed to survive, millions of others took advantage and exploited the system, cheating American taxpayers out of $191 BILLION. That’s absolutely despicable, and we can’t let them get away with it. This good bill will extend the statute of limitations so federal agencies can continue to pursue existing and new cases of fraud and get every last taxpayer dollar possible back.”
According to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Inspector General, the most recent estimate of improper or fraudulent funds paid by pandemic UI is “at least $191 billion” and consists mainly of fraud. It is unacceptable to leave taxpayers on the hook for fraud at this level.
Even with entities like DOL, the Government Accountability Office, and the Pandemic Resource Accountability Committee diligently working to recoup these lost funds, there are still over 600 UI fraud cases pending according to the Comptroller General’s recent testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, with more cases likely to pop up. With many of these programs being authorized and funded in calendar year 2020, the statute of limitations for overpayments in these programs will be expiring this year.
To help law enforcement regain these fraudulently improperly paid funds, the Pandemic Unemployment Fraud Recoupment Act would:
- Extend the statute of limitations for fraud in pandemic UI programs such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and the Lost Wages Assistance programs from 5 years to 10 years.
- Extend the statute of limitations for PUA, FPUC, MEUC, PEUC, and Lost Wages Assistance from 3 years to 10 years.
Extending the statute of limitations on these programs will provide essential time for law enforcement to prosecute backlogged cases and future cases that may arise. It is urgent to pass this bill swiftly so UI fraud cases don’t expire and more taxpayer dollars can be reclaimed.