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Monday, March 4, 2024

‘Over $200b in COVID small loans stolen’

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The United States lost more than $200 billion to fraud from two schemes designed to help small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a US government watchdog report.

“We identified multiple schemes used by fraudsters to steal from the American taxpayer and exploit programs meant to help those in need,” the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a new report.

The potentially fraudulent loans were disbursed through two COVID-19 programs, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to the report published on Tuesday.

“Over $200 billion in potentially fraudulent COVID-19 EIDLs, EIDL Targeted Advances, Supplemental Targeted Advances, and PPP loans,” the SBA report said.

“This means at least 17 percent of all COVID-19 EIDL and PPP funds were disbursed to potentially fraudulent actors,” according to the SBA. AFP

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The US government provided around $4.6 trillion of funding for pandemic response and recovery, according to a recent estimate by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Of this, around $90.5 billion in funding remained unspent as of January 2023, according to the GAO.

The OIG’s oversight and investigative work resulted in more than 1,000 indictments, and 529 convictions related to Covid fraud, according to the SBA.

These investigations have resulted in “nearly $30 billion in COVID-19 EIDL and PPP funds being seized or returned to SBA,” the report found.

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