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By The Associated Press undefined
Champaign News-Gazette. Sep. 24, 2023
It was like stealing candy from a baby. Investigators are starting to put flesh on the bones of the massive criminality and incompetence surrounding the state’s administration of the multibillion-dollar federal Paycheck Protection Program. The program aimed at helping businesses cope with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic was rife with corruption, and our loyal state employees apparently were right in the middle of it.
Illinois Executive Inspector General Susan Haling, amplifying on previous disclosures, recently announced that at least 117 state employees defrauded the programs. She’s referring their cases to Attorney General Kwame Raoul for possible prosecution. It better be probable prosecution, because this is yet another outrage perpetrated on the citizens of Illinois by the public servants of Illinois. Unfortunately for her, Haling’s investigation is not over yet. She’s in the middle of 438 probes of individual wrongdoing and is not quite halfway done.
This is one case where Illinois, which is notoriously corrupt, is not an outlier. The entire federal PPP program provided fraudsters coast-to-coast opportunities, and they took full advantage to secure loans that were really grants. Given the volume, Haling’s investigators are forced to set priorities, one of which is addressing only those cases where fraudsters made off with loans of $20,000 or more.
In other words, those who were more restrained in their avarice will escape prosecution. The PPP wrongdoing is not just limited to state employees. In Chicago, employees of the county, city and school district participated in the thievery. What’s interesting here is that all of these people who have been implicated in the fraud were employed. They either created fictitious businesses or exaggerated their revenues to qualify.
The coronavirus fraud is not limited to the PPP programs. Illinois also threw billions out the window in a similar program designed to aid the unemployed. Misconduct on this scale clearly shows that governmental ineptitude at the federal and state levels created a feeding frenzy of fraud that was open to all comers. God knows how many billions of dollars in federal tax revenue was lost, much of which will never be recovered.
Congress and presidents (both Donald Trump and Joe Biden) oversaw the prompt passage of these aid programs that were ill-conceived and foolishly managed. They were open invitations to criminality, and it was obvious from the beginning what would happen. It’s what always happens when legislators and bureaucrats take a leap into the wild blue yonder in the vain hope that somehow, things will work out.
Naturally, they didn’t.