The exact scope of the fraud targeting federal aid initiatives is unknown, even two years later. With unemployment benefits, however, the theft could be significant. Testifying at a little-noticed congressional hearing this spring, a top watchdog for the Labor Department estimated there could have been “at least” $163 billion in unemployment-related “overpayments,” a projection that includes wrongly paid sums as well as “significant” benefits obtained by malicious actors.
So far, the United States has recaptured just over $4 billion of that, according to state workforce data furnished by the Labor Department this March. That amounts to roughly 2.4 percent of the wrongful payments, if the government’s best estimate is accurate, raising the specter that Washington may never get most of the money back.
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