Bureaucrats Gone Criminal

2020’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is an epic case study of government failure. It was intended to help small businesses survive being shut down because of state and local government-mandated pandemic lockdowns. It was instead a feeding frenzy for lobbyists and extremely wasteful. There’s a good reason why it’s known as “the biggest fraud in a generation“.

It’s hard to believe the PPP could get any worse. But it has. Serious allegations have been raised that thousands of federal government employees cashed in on it. That’s not just unethical; it’s criminal. The Daily Wire‘s Luke Rosiak reports:

Thousands of federal employees may have wrongfully obtained coronavirus bailouts by claiming to be unemployed, with some even doing so from their desks at government offices, federal investigators found….

A variety of government programs paid significant sums to people who said their jobs had been impacted by coronavirus in 2020. The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General found that nearly 2,000 applications for “Lost Wages Assistance” and unemployment insurance payouts had the names of DHS employees who were ineligible since they were, of course, employed by the government agency.

In fact, of 2,393 applications filed with DHS employees’ names, only 584 could be confirmed as actually eligible for the program — and even some of those bore signs of fraud, such as incorrect amounts.

That’s a minimum of 1,809 bureaucrats getting caught with their hands in the PPP cookie jar. That’s also just at one federal government department. There are more, including at the Internal Revenue Service:

In October, the Department of Justice said it had charged five former or current IRS employees with pandemic fraud seeking more than $1 million, which they allegedly used on “cars, luxury goods, and personal travel, including trips to Las Vegas.” But the inspector general for the Small Business Administration (SBA), which administered the largest coronavirus programs, has acknowledged that so much money was paid out in such a short amount of time, and with so few safeguards, that only a tiny fraction of suspicious cases have even been investigated.

The people who work for the federal government rank among the most highly compensated people in the country. Unlike the employees of small businesses, they were at no risk of losing their jobs during the pandemic. And yet, their greed led far too many to try to cash in on the PPP program.

As it stands now, many of these bureaucrats are getting away with it. The federal government has the resources to investigate its own employees. It needs to prosecute those who crossed the line in these cases. A real message needs to be sent to the entire federal bureaucracy. Crime shouldn’t pay for bureaucrats.

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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