On Monday, a watchdog report claimed that the Small Business Administration (SBA) may have accidentally sent as much as $1.3 billion in COVID-19 relief funding to foreign countries during the pandemic.
According to the Daily Caller, the office of the SBA inspector general reported that the agency failed to detect the foreign IP addresses of those who applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), which awarded as much as $2 million per business or nonprofit. As a result, up to $1.3 billion may have been sent to recipients in “high risk” countries.
The report, which said that attempted foreign applicants were largely undetected due to the fact that they met “certain eligibility requirements,” noted that such fraud was already very likely “because of the history of fraud originating from transnational crime organizations that have stolen funds from U.S programs in the past.”
In total, the SBA overlooked as many as 41,600 applicants from “high risk” nations, distributing $1.3 billion to them over the span of nearly two years, from March 20th, 2020 to November 12th, 2021. This amounted to about .04 percent of the $342 billion that was distributed by the SBA through this program during the same time period, which saw over 233,000 total applications.
“The federal government’s response to COVID was panicked and not thought out,” said E.J. Antoni, an economics fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis. “The careless, shotgun approach to disbursing unneeded aid was an invitation for fraud, both at home and abroad.”
The EIDL was created by the Trump Administration after the passing of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act into law in March of 2020. It was since reauthorized by the two subsequent spending packages, including the CARES Act signed by President Donald Trump, and the American Rescue Plan passed by Joe Biden.