WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, expressed alarm in light of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report detailing more than $2.6 million in potentially fraudulent COVID-19 unemployment benefits claimed by DHS employees. Portman released the following statement:
“I am alarmed by this DHS OIG report that DHS employees potentially made more than $2.6 million in fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims. Millions of taxpayer dollars from hardworking Americans meant to help out-of-work Americans instead went to criminals and cheats working for our own federal government. If these allegations are correct, those in charge of protecting our homeland were exploiting it for personal gain. I urge the Department of Justice to hold these federal government employees accountable.
“This OIG report makes it clear that we must pass my legislation to claw back American taxpayer funds and pursue recovery of fraudulent payments by ensuring aggressive investigation and prosecution of criminal fraud in pandemic unemployment programs. My common sense legislation would also give states the incentives and tools necessary to recover stolen pandemic funds.”
NOTE: Portman and Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the Chase COVID Unemployment Fraud Act to recover fraudulent pandemic unemployment payments by providing incentives for states to pursue the fraud. Portman has led other efforts in the Senate to ensure the robust oversight of federal COVID-19 relief spending. In June, Portman and Crapo led a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a detailed accounting of the $350 billion of COVID-19 relief funds appropriated to governments of states, localities, territories, and tribes under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). In March, he questioned government oversight officials and called for an examination of massive COVID-19 spending fraud during a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing. At the hearing, Portman highlighted that out of the $5 trillion spent in response to COVID-19, up to $400 billion has been stolen, calling it the biggest fraud ever committed against the American people.