The House Small Business Committee has begun an investigation into claims by whistleblowers asserting that small businesses across the country were collectively defrauded out of $200 billion in federal COVID-19 aid.
As Just The News reports, the committee held a hearing last month titled “Action Through Innovation: Private Sector Solutions to Recouping Stolen Pandemic Loan Funds.” The purpose of the hearing was to find solutions for possibly recouping the lost funds that had been fraudulently issued by the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), one of several relief programs set up during the Chinese Coronavirus pandemic.
“When the pandemic started, the SBA took on an outsized role in restarting our nation’s economy,” said Chairman Roger Williams (R-Texas) at the hearing. “The PPP and EIDL programs were vital to saving small businesses, but that fact does not excuse $200 billion in fraud.”
One of the witnesses who testified was Dean Zeller, a policy expert at the National Whistleblower Center. He said that one solution could be a self-sustaining program where citizens could collect commissions if they reported fraud in a way that leads to money going back to the Treasury.
“I’ve seen it in a number of government agencies, [which] have created these whistleblower award programs,” said Zerbe. “And so I think very much the SBA is a good possibility in terms of also looking at creating a whistleblower reward program. You already have the False Claims Act, where they’re bringing in a few cases right now from attorneys, from whistleblowers, and that’s had some success.”
Zerbe also voiced his support for “an in-house whistleblower award program,” which he believed would save time and resources to the benefit of taxpayers.
“When I served as senior counsel and tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee,” Zerbe continued, “I was the lead staffer for then-Chairman Grassley to pass the 2006 amendments that modernized the IRS whistleblower statute – that has brought in over $6 billion dollars.”
Chairman Williams said during the hearing that, regardless of which solution is decided upon, the federal government “cannot continue with business as usual” in the aftermath of such large-scale fraud.