Rep. Chu Investigates Fraud and Abuse in COVID Relief Programs
Washington, D.C.— Today, House Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Regulations Chairwoman Judy Chu (CA-27) led a hearing probing internal controls against fraud and abuse in key loan programs at the Small Business Administration (SBA). During the hearing, government watchdog agencies testified on their efforts to prevent fraud and waste in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL).
“Over the past nearly six months, more than 5.2 million PPP loans and approximately 3.5 million EIDL applications have been approved. But we must ensure that that money is getting where it was intended,” said Chairwoman Chu. “Today’s oversight hearing was vital to ensuring we root out instances of fraud and spend American’s tax dollars wisely. Any instance of fraud is taking money out of American workers’ pockets, and that is why I’m grateful for the opportunity to examine how SBA could have identified and stopped this fraud, and how Congress can provide them the tools they need to do that.”
Concerns about fraud and abuse emerged after the CARES Act initiated PPP and EIDL for COVID-19. In July, the SBA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a Management Alert regarding the potential for widespread abuse within the EIDL program. The report detailed ineffective internal controls at SBA and evidence of potential fraud that had already occurred. Subsequent reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) outlined issues with the PPP program, including high fraud potential, demographic information gaps, and unreliable data.
Representatives from SBA OIG, and GAO discussed their experience investigating potential fraud and abuse at SBA. Witnesses shared their assessment of internal controls against fraud at SBA and their offices’ ongoing efforts to protect taxpayer funds. Both witnesses expressed lingering concerns about the potential for fraud in both programs.
“The oversight challenges of SBA’s pandemic response efforts are continuing to evolve with the hundreds of fraud cases, tens of thousands of allegations of wrongdoing being received by OIG’s Hotline, and concerns surrounding internal controls mounting based on our review findings,” said Mike Ware, Inspector General at the Small Business Administration. “We will continue our efforts to keep the Administrator and this Congress currently and fully informed of our findings. Nothing short of the public trust is at stake, as well as the vitality of the nation’s economy.”
“We continue to be concerned about the potential for fraud in the EIDL program and are currently conducting work on the program, including on internal controls and fraud risk management,” said Bill Shear, Director of Financial Markets and Community Investment at the Government Accountability Office. “However, we have experienced delays in obtaining data and information requested from SBA, including access to application-level EIDL data. We will continue to take actions to obtain records needed to move forward with our work.”