Congressional Republicans, eager to recoup fraudulent COVID-19 pandemic aid, are pushing back against the Biden administration for stonewalling efforts to recover payments to criminals and denying the magnitude of the crime.
The House Small Business Committee under Chairman Roger Williams (R-TX) marked up several bills Thursday — including two dealing with pandemic fraud that, according to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Inspector General, potentially amount to at least $200 billion in taxpayer funds. Biden’s SBA downplayed the fraud and claimed fraudulent payments amount to only $34 billion — a massive discrepancy from the SBA Inspector General’s report.
In addition to denying the magnitude of the issue, the SBA is making it difficult to report fraud despite the law. In authorizing the aid, Congress required the SBA to include an easily accessible link on its website to report suspected fraud and other measures to ensure it can be easily reported. However, the only link to report fraud on the SBA’s lengthy homepage is at the bottom, nestled within a long list of links.
As recently as Wednesday, that link sent users to a page in Spanish.
Thursday, presumably in response to public awareness brought by the committee’s markup, the link had been updated to send users to a page in English, although Williams insists the difficult-to-find link remains out of compliance with Congress’s intent and the law.
One of his bills — marked up Thursday by the committee, H.R. 5426 — would clarify that the SBA is not complying with the law and would require further website changes to ease the reporting of fraud.
“Some have argued that this bill is redundant, but it is necessary to ensure that individuals outside of Washington can easily find where to report suspected fraudulent activity,” Williams said during the markup.
That bill was referred unanimously out of the committee, although it remains to be seen if the Biden administration will go further in acknowledging the extent of pandemic fraud and cooperating with Congress.