Since I signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) in March, the law has delivered shots in the arms and money in the pockets of the American people – stabilizing our economy after the worst crisis since the Great Depression, and helping families keep their heads above water as we begin to build back better.
As I said after signing the law, fastidious oversight is critical to ensuring that relief arrives quickly, equitably, and efficiently. I appreciate the stepped-up actions the Department of Justice has already taken to address criminal abuse of the COVID-19 relief programs put into effect last year. I am also pleased that my White House ARP implementation team has taken quick and thorough action to ensure transparency and accountability in the relief programs funded by the ARP, and that they have fully and cooperatively engaged the oversight community. This is the type of open, meticulous approach that I employed when President Obama put me in charge of implementing the Recovery Act – and it is what I made clear that I expected of both my ARP implementation team and my Cabinet officials.
There is perhaps no oversight issue inherited by my Administration that is as serious as the exploitation of relief programs by criminal syndicates using stolen identities to steal government benefits. Last year, this type of criminal behavior robbed American families of billions of dollars that should have gone to support small businesses and workers who had lost their jobs. To combat that threat, I welcome the Department of Justice’s announcement today of the creation of an interagency COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force. Through this task force, the Justice Department will work with other agencies to investigate and prosecute domestic and international criminals intent on exploiting relief programs for personal and financial gain – and recover stolen funds.
In addition, I have directed my ARP Implementation Coordinator to build on his team’s ongoing efforts by launching a new Initiative on Identity Theft Prevention and Public Benefits. Together with the Office of Management and Budget, this team will bring a whole-of-government approach to develop recommendations to help stop these criminal syndicates before they can prey on relief funds that belong to the American people. In developing these recommendations, they should seek out the full engagement and guidance of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, the Government Accountability Office, and the relevant agency inspectors general and State auditors – consistent with the independent oversight status of those officials. My Administration is committed to ensuring that the ARP relief goes where it’s supposed to go: into the bank accounts and mailboxes of American families, local businesses, and schools.