“Flagrant fraud within government programs, especially when it goes unpunished, hurts taxpayers and harms small businesses most.”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee, is releasing anew report today showing how the Small Business Administration (SBA) was scammed for hundreds of billions of dollars from COVID relief programs and is pushing federal investigators and the Biden administration to keep working to retrieve the money.
Ernst joined the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight to question witnesses, including Hannibal “Mike” Ware, Inspector General (IG) of the SBA, on the more than $200 billion in COVID-19 relief funds fraudulently paid to scammers.
At the hearing, Ernst presented the new report titled Small Business COVID-19 Fraud: Three Years Later State of Playdetailing the Biden SBA’s effort to discount the full extent of fraud and cast doubt on the legitimate estimates made by expert investigators.
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Ernst questioned IG Ware on how many instances of fraudulent, false, or misrepresented loans he is aware of that the SBA has ended collections on. She also advocated for the passage of her Strengthening Taxpayer Recoveries Act, which would require the SBA to collect all of the COVID funds owed to taxpayers, including the money wrongfully given to fraudsters, and expand the jurisdiction of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery to find more fraud.
Click here to watch.
As SBA ran the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and Restaurant Revitalization Fund on a “first come, first serve” basis, the money ran out quickly, and many qualifying businesses were turned away as felons, gang members, and drug traffickers raked in cash. One alleged fraudster took home $8 million while nearly 2,000 struggling restaurants in Iowa were left empty-handed.
Ernst has long been concerned about SBA’s failure to recover misspent COVID funds. In April, Ernst demanded the SBA pursue all debt collections, no matter the size, for all SBA COVID Programs. Ernst has also called on the SBA administrator to minimize losses to the taxpayer and to rectify SBA’s noncompliance with improper payment requirements.