Audit reveals how Arizona is spending $75 billion in federal COVID-19 funds
Since the pandemic began, the federal government has provided Arizona residents, businesses, and state and local governments with $74.9 billion in COVID-19 funds. The federal funding covers everything from stimulus checks sent to households, grants and loans for businesses, and money for schools, universities and governments to respond to COVID and provide relief.
Nearly $44 billion went to individuals, businesses, local governments and other programs while more than $30 billion went to the state.
The Arizona Auditor General says the state’s Department of Economic Security (DES) failed to put critical identity verification or other anti-fraud measures in place and paid an estimated $4.4 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims. That’s nearly 30% of the money Arizona had earmarked for people who lost jobs due to the pandemic.
According to the audit, DES paid an estimated $57 million of extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits without yet determining whether the claimants were qualified for them as required. That could mean the state would have to recover and return the money to the federal government.
The audit says the state government has almost $3 billion that it hasn’t yet determined how to spend.