Lankford Goes After COVID Unemployment Fraud

WASHINGTON, DC – With unemployment fraud leaving taxpayers on the hook for roughly $163 billion, and only slightly more than $4 billion recovered, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) joined Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the Chase COVID Unemployment Fraud Act of 2022 to recover funds from unchecked unemployment fraud and provide incentives for states to recover fraudulent payments.

“Fraudulent unemployment claims are just theft from the American taxpayer. The massive unemployment spending during the height of the COVID pandemic also led to massive fraud. We must crack down on fraudsters and ensure the federal government and states can recoup the fraudulently used funds to provide needed updates to our unemployment systems after our state government worked to return to our traditional unemployment process so Oklahomans could get back to work safely as soon as possible,” said Lankford.

“The Administration needs to step up and join us in detecting and preventing the massive fraud in federal unemployment insurance programs that we have seen, including systemic fraud, internationally organized criminal fraud rings, and other threats to our systems, programs and the federal budget,” said Crapo.

“The fraud associated with pandemic unemployment programs reached staggering levels,” Portman said.  “Billions of hard-working Americans’ taxpayer dollars that were meant to help out-of-work Americans instead went to criminals and cheats. This legislation will give the states the incentives and tools necessary to recover this stolen money.”

Joining Lankford, Crapo, and Portman to introduce the bill are Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Kennedy (R-LA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mitt Romney (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

The White House estimated that 19 percent of total COVID unemployment insurance payments were lost to fraud–offering a low estimate of roughly $80 billion. By contrast, the Department of Labor’s estimate puts that number much higher. In May 2022, the Washington Post reported that an estimated $163 billion were siphoned away by fraudsters, and that if the government’s best estimate is accurate, only 2.4 percent of wrongful payments have been recovered. 

The Chase COVID Unemployment Fraud Act of 2022 would jumpstart efforts to claw back federal funds and pursue recovery of fraudulent payments by ensuring aggressive identification, investigation, and prosecution of criminal fraud in pandemic unemployment programs. 

Lankford serves on both the Finance and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees.