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COMMENTARY OF THE DAY
By
Robert Namer
Voice Of America
©2022 All rights reserved
July 01, 2022

      Raise your hand if you’re surprised that the trillions of dollars spent on COVID-19 relief gave way to billions of dollars in government waste, fraud and abuses. Based on recent reporting, you might think this type of carelessness with taxpayers’ money has never before happened. Sadly, such waste and fraud are normal byproducts of most government programs.  In other words, fraud and waste was inevitable. 

     Too much focus on waste and fraud misses a more important problem: Lots of the COVID-19 spending that doesn’t qualify as wasteful or fraudulent was nonetheless misspent. When the pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, people all over the country panicked. Everyone seemed to agree that the right thing to do was pump the nation full of as much money as possible, as fast as possible. As a result, nearly everyone — married, unmarried, employed, unemployed, through businesses small and large — got cash through the $2 trillion CARES Act.

     Some people did raise the potential for fraud. We were told that there was no time to put in place measures sufficient to prevent it. However, the CARES Act did create an oversight mechanism called the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. The committee had a difficult task due to the enormous size of the relief bill, a hardship compounded by the fact that the program had to become functional before it could even start looking into the spending. Dollars were pouring forth fast from Washington, and the committee was basically behind from the start.

     Then Congress added another two relief bills totaling around $3 trillion and including extensions of some programs implemented in the CARES Act. It’s now clear that an enormous amount of the eventual $5 trillion was spent “improperly,” and that some was downright fraudulent. For instance, according to the Labor Department, at least $163 billion of the $873 billion in unemployment insurance benefits was spent in error, and little of this sum was recovered. Making matters worse is that a significant share of the $163 billion was claimed by organized fraudsters and scammers in the United States and countries like China and Russia.  There is also the COVID money that was given the illegal migrant expenses.

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