According to USA Today, about 1.1 million Americans filed for unemployment the week of August 15th, meaning that a total of 57.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic. While some of these jobs have been regained, due to openings of businesses around the country, the effects of unemployment remain staggering across the nation and are greatly affecting Americans’ ability to afford necessities, such as monthly housing costs. While the federal government recently approved an extra $300 weekly unemployment benefit, and Democrats face pressure to vote to extend the $600 weekly unemployment benefit, the DOJ highlights the threat to this public funding intended to support those who are unemployed by scammers that intend to defraud the government.
For instance, on August 19th, the DOJ put out a press release underlining one of these attempts by a man who participated in a scheme to defraud Michigan, Pennsylvania, and the US Government. In this press release, the DOJ outlines that this man filed numerous applications for unemployment benefits using fraudulent social security numbers and driver’s licenses. Moreover, some of the money acquired by this scheme was used to purchase luxury items such as a Rolex watch. The United States Attorney Matthew Schneider stated that “at a time when thousands of people are out of work because of the pandemic, Samuel Baker is charged with stealing unemployment benefits that should have gone to Michiganders trying to feed their families.” This point emphasizes the importance of maintaining strict oversight of public funds that are distributed for the purpose of lessening the detrimental effects of the current public health crisis.
Any compromise of this emergency public funding for the aim of buying luxury items or enriching oneself is obstructive to the overall function of the unemployment insurance, and actively puts those who truly need the funds at risk. Therefore, as the crisis continues, we must maintain a thorough eye on the areas where fraud such as this scheme can continue to occur. As the detrimental economic effects of the pandemic endure, oversight remains essential while we strive to secure the help that Americans deserve.
Emma Bass is the current Public Interest Advocacy Fellow at Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund.