WASHINGTON — From 2020 to 2022, a group of Minnesotans pretended to be serving meals to low-income children, all the while filing for reimbursement under a federal COVID-19 relief program aimed to buoy child nutrition as schools and childcare centers closed.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday highlighted the conspiracy as just one example — albeit, a massive one — of the government’s blind spots in tracking its pandemic relief funds.
Rep. James Comer gaveled in the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability’s first hearing this Congress, promising to make sure government “works in an efficient manner” and guards American taxpayers from “fraudsters” — with a particular focus on the “massive waste, fraud and abuse in COVID relief programs,” he said.
The Kentucky Republican accused Democrats of pandemic overspending last Congress when they held the majority and then failing to track whether those dollars were reaching intended targets.
“We owe it to the American people to get to the bottom of the greatest theft of American taxpayer dollars in history,” Comer said in his opening statement.
Ranking member Jamie Raskin disagreed with the blame being directed toward Democrats, highlighting several held by the last Congress’ House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
“We used the spotlight and bully pulpit of a small subcommittee to expose and reverse colossal frauds taking place against the American people,” Raskin, of Maryland, said, criticizing a lack of anti-fraud controls under former President Donald Trump that led to about $84 billion in fraudulent small business loans, among other examples.
“I confess I’m troubled that some of our colleagues seem to want to cherry pick facts and deploy distorted figures to attack the underlying legitimacy of the programs themselves,” Raskin said. Read more