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Government estimates unemployment fraud during pandemic cost up to $135 billion

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(The Center Square) – The U.S. government estimated unemployment fraud during the pandemic cost taxpayers up to $135 billion or about 11% to 15% of the total amount of unemployment insurance benefits paid during the pandemic.

That’s according to the latest report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which the U.S. Department of Labor disputes.

“The full extent of [unemployment insurance] fraud during the pandemic will likely never be known with certainty,” according to the report.

The Department of Labor took issue with Government Accountability Office’s fraud estimate, saying it was likely overstated. However, the Government Accountability Office disagreed.

“The unprecedented demand for UI benefits and the need to quickly implement the new programs during the pandemic increased the risk of fraud,” according to the report. “The increased significance of the UI system during the pandemic drew attention to its vulnerabilities and susceptibility to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.”

Expenditures across the UI system totaled about $900 billion from April 1, 2020, through May 31, 2023, according to Department of Labor. This includes about $230 billion in expenditures under the regular UI and Expanded Benefits programs and about $670 billion in expenditures under the pandemic UI programs that expired on Sept. 6, 2021. However, 24 states ended their participation in at least one of the pandemic UI programs before the programs expired.

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