An AP analysis has revealed that fraudsters potentially stole over $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, with an additional $123 billion wasted or misspent, totaling 10% of the $4.2 trillion disbursed by the U.S. government for pandemic relief.
The investigation exposed the widespread grift that occurred as criminals exploited the hasty implementation of relief programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program and COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, resulting in significant losses.
While the exact figures are yet to be determined, the fraud and misuse of relief funds are estimated to eventually exceed $100 billion.
Lax oversight and insufficient restrictions on applicants contributed to the ease with which fraudsters exploited relief programs.
The rush to disburse funds quickly left little time for comprehensive vetting, allowing ineligible individuals to receive aid.
The Biden administration has implemented stricter rules and proposed a $1.6 billion plan to enhance law enforcement efforts against pandemic relief fraud. However, the enormity of the task and the sheer volume of investigations highlight the challenges in recovering the stolen funds and bringing the fraudsters to justice.
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