Since the beginning of the pandemic, California has doled out $114 billion to 19 million unemployment recipients. Last month, California auditors reported that at least $11.4 billion in those taxpayer-funded benefits were paid to scammers.
Worse yet, some estimates are that the amount could be about three times that — $31 billion in fraudulent payments — to Golden State cheaters.
Republicans, having now returned to their more comfortable role of stewards of the taxpayers’ money, are demanding that House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. investigate this colossal fraud, which goes further back than just one month.
In fact, California’s own auditors discovered that about 10 percent of all unemployment claims paid out by the state over the last year were erroneous or fraudulent. Currently, an additional 17% of current unemployment benefit claims are under investigation.
The wry observation that Democrats can carelessly give away far more than Republicans can steal applies. California, it seems, was swamped by the $130 billion in pandemic relief they received from the feds. And that does not include the December augment. Here are a few astonishing examples:
- As late as December 2020, Californians could continue to collect benefits with no address verification system in place.
- Some addresses were for prisoners on death row, who received $421,000 in unemployment benefits.
- Organized crime groups in Russia and China got in on the act and cashed in on the free money.
In the meantime, one California bureaucrat, Julie Su, is President Biden’s nominee for deputy Labor Secretary. Ms. Su, it seems, will likely be the focus of Republican embarrassing questions during her confirmation. She was in charge of the California state agency as it hemorrhaged funds in fraudulent payments.
Following the audit, Su complained that her agency was “overwhelmed” with unemployment requests after the pandemic raged in her state. “There is no sugarcoating the reality,” she said, “California has not had sufficient security measures in place to prevent this level of fraud, and criminals took advantage of the situation.”
Su also blamed the Trump Administration for not giving federal help. What would have been helpful, she complained, “was for the federal government…to have developed a coherent and coordinated proactive approach to the fraud.”
If Su survives the Senate confirmation hearing, perhaps she can become a part of the solution. It will be interesting to hear her ideas on how the Federal Government could perform what is clearly a state responsibility.
Then there is Washington State Democrat Suzi Levine, who headed that state’s Employment Security Department. She joined the Biden Administration as the U.S. Department of Labor’s interim assistant secretary. She will be a key player in the new President’s economic recovery plan.
Levine, like Su brings some worrisome baggage to her new federal position. Washington State was hit by over $600 million by a well-organized Nigerian fraud ring. Stolen identities accounted for more than 122,000 fraudulent unemployment claims.
As the Biden Administration tries to sell another colossal round of pandemic spending, it will be hard-pressed to explain how two scandal-plagued blue state Democrats are destined for plum posts in administering all that money.