Over $1 billion in COVID relief awarded to foreign applicants: inspector general report

The Small Business Administration, which gave out the money, says it stopped most of the applications from foreign IP addresses.

Updated: September 15, 2022 - 12:33pm

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The Small Business Administration gave $1.3 billion in COVID-19 disaster relief to applicants with foreign internet addresses, indicating possible international criminal organization involvement, the agency's inspector general found.

The agency blocked over 110,000 applications from six countries deemed to be "high risk," but not all of the applications from foreign nations, according to the inspector general's report published Monday.

"The numerous applications submitted from foreign IP addresses are an indication of potential fraud that may involve international criminal organizations," the government watchdog group said in its report. 

Over 33,000 applications were submitted from Nigeria, and 241 were approved, giving applicants in the African nation nearly $20 million.

A SBA spokesperson told the Washington Free Beacon that the agency has "successfully stopped most of the applications from foreign IP addresses and is committed to ensuring that effective fraud controls are in place for future programs."

While the approval rate of applications from Nigeria was below 1%, applicants had a higher success rate in other countries such as Mexico (21%), Canada (18%), and India (16%).

The disaster relief given to foreign-based applicants makes up less than .04% of the $342 billion in total Small Business Administration COVID relief.

Watchdogs have discovered pandemic-related fraud in other federal entities. In February, the White House estimated that $80 billion went to pandemic unemployment fraud.