(HorizonPost.com) – On New Year’s Day of 2020, it’s probable that most people in the United States had never heard of the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China; why would they have? Then, in the first quarter of 2021, the phrases “novel coronavirus” and “COVID-19” entered America’s collective consciousness, and soon, it was a full-blown pandemic that turned the country and the world on its head.
As the virus spread, states began mandating quarantine protocols which led to lay-offs of many “nonessential” workers, who were left with no real source of income. In response, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide relief to people who would not ordinarily qualify for unemployment insurance.
At 14.8%, the country saw the highest unemployment rate in April 2020 since tracking began in 1948. So news of the CARES plan was music to many people’s ears. Congress also added a provision to the act increasing weekly unemployment payments by $600 over what states pay, the wisdom of which lawmakers debate to this day.
Unexpected Benefits — for the Bad Guys
The wave of applications that hit state unemployment bureaus was something akin to a 100-foot-tall tsunami that wreaked havoc upon the state workers tasked with processing the paperwork. There are always people ready to take advantage of a situation like this, and with this much money involved, it became an international target.
According to an Axios article, some experts estimated that as much as one-half of the funds paid out ended up in the hands of criminal organizations. According to their numbers, this plus the individuals who engaged in unemployment fraud could easily reach $400 billion.
FOX Business quoted Blake Hall, an industry expert who believes a significant portion of that enormous sum went to “… international organized crime rings, including Russia, China, Nigeria, and Ghana…” Haywood Talcove, another individual who tracks this kind of fraud, believes these are state-backed groups who may use the money for “nefarious purposes” like drugs, terrorism, and trafficking.
Much of the activity happened on the dark web, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to track who exactly is at fault. Considering that at least some of the funds reportedly went to countries unfriendly to America, this goes from average theft to a national security issue.
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