Protecting Taxpayers and Victims of Unemployment Fraud Act

Floor Speech

Date: May 11, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ESTES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Protecting Taxpayers and Victims of Unemployment Fraud Act.

Right now, our Federal Government is borrowing one out of $5 we spend, over $45,000 a second. This fact alone should outrage every American.

Yet, we face another outrageous problem here in the swamp: Waste, fraud, and abuse. Not only are we borrowing at historic rates, but we are borrowing to cover the costs of rampant fraud that exists frequently unchecked in our system.

This was magnified during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there were good reasons to expand unemployment benefits when many Americans were displaced from work through no fault of their own, we are already 3 years removed from the passage of the CARES Act.

The pandemic emergency declaration is over; not because the Biden administration followed the science and voluntarily gave up their emergency powers, but because House Republicans and the Senate came together to force the Biden administration to end the pandemic emergency declaration.

One troubling data point that has emerged is the unemployment claims as a percentage of unemployed workers. This was 37 percent in February 2020, right before the pandemic came to our shores. Yet, by August of the same year, it had climbed to 216 percent.

The data is clear, we were paying massive amounts of unemployment to people who were not unemployed. It is estimated that of the $873 billion in total pandemic UI benefits disbursed, about $357 billion went to fraudulent claims.

No Member of Congress should be comfortable telling their constituents that they don't care about wasting nearly $400 billion of taxpayer money.

In my home State, a forensic audit found that the State of Kansas paid up to $466 million in unemployment fraud. While this massive fraud was occurring, hardworking, unemployed Kansans were competing with fraudsters to receive the unemployment benefits they deserved and so desperately needed.

In my office in Wichita, we received countless calls from Kansans who were trying to reach an ineffective Kansas Department of Labor.

One constituent waited over half a year after her claim mysteriously ended up in the fraud department. Others reached out to let me know they had been victims of fraud, some receiving a 1099 claiming they owed taxes on benefits that somebody else received.

These cases point to a real problem in Kansas and across the country. Taxpayers lost out to fraudsters who used the pandemic, vast sums of Federal Funds and weak State leadership to game the system.

Thankfully, there is a solution that protects the taxpayers and reins in the fraud we have seen in unemployment insurance. The Protecting Taxpayers and Victims of Unemployment Fraud Act won't make everybody whole, but it ensures that some of the hundreds of billions of dollars are recouped, and it lets States keep 25 percent of those funds so they can improve their own unemployment insurance systems.

To be clear, unemployment is a critical lifeline that helps Americans during a challenging time. When bad actors abuse the program, it hurts those who actually need it by taking away monetary and human resources.


Mr. ESTES. The bill is the right and fair approach to ensure unemployed Americans have full access to the assistance they need and, when done correctly, encourages those individuals to get back into the workforce.

Tackling waste, fraud, and abuse in unemployment insurance shouldn't be a partisan issue. It rights a wrong and is just common sense.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues to join me in this commonsense legislation that puts taxpayers first.