America’s governors are disagreeing with the Biden administration about what’s behind April’s disappointing job report, which showed far fewer new jobs than expected and an uptick in the unemployment rate. Yet the White House on Monday repeated its claim that generous unemployment benefits are not a factor.
“We don’t see much evidence that the extra unemployment insurance is a major driver in people not rejoining the workforce,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, pointing instead to vaccination rates and worries about child care because many schools have yet to reopen.
President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan extends through September the $300 weekly added federal payment on top of state benefits. The unemployment aid originally began in March 2020 and was due to expire in March 2021.
But states are starting to disagree with the Biden White House. Arkansas on Friday became the latest state to announce plans to cancel the extra unemployment benefits, joining Montana and South Carolina.
“More states are expected to follow,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee said in a statement posted to his website Friday. “The White House is also in denial that many businesses – both small and large – can’t find the workers they need, because Democrats are paying 4 in 10 jobless more to stay home than to return to work.”
Besides its negative effects on the workforce, the unemployment program “is a magnet for fraudsters domestic and foreign,” my former colleague Nicholas Ballasy at Just the News reported today, writing that Congress allowing independent contractors to collect jobless benefits for the first time “created a once in a lifetime opportunity for every scammer, fraudster and thief in the world, and they’ve jumped at the chance to take advantage of that opportunity,” according to Douglas Swetnam, section chief of the data privacy and identity theft unit in the Indiana attorney general’s office.
The sources of unemployment fraud are from out of state in the vast majority of cases, according to Swetnam.
“We see a fair amount that’s coming from international sources,” he said, specifically naming Nigeria, Jamaica, and Russia.
Ballasy reported that Swetnam was speaking Monday at a House Ways and Means Committee minority roundtable titled “$60 Billion and Counting: The Consequences of Unchecked Pandemic Unemployment Fraud.”
“In Indiana, my section experienced a 1,500% increase in identity theft fraud reports in 2020,” Swetnam reportedly said. “We are on track to set a new record for 2021.”
Eva Velasquez, CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, also said at the event that in calls to her organization, unemployment fraud was the category with the highest number of victims.
“We saw a 4,800% increase, I’m not misspeaking, that’s a 4,800% increase in just that case type,” she reportedly said. “We’re on pace to pass our 2020 numbers before the end of the second quarter this year.”