By Maegan Vazquez, CNN
President Joe Biden signed into law two bipartisan bills on Friday aimed at holding accountable individuals who commit fraud under pandemic relief programs.
The two new laws will extend the time period prosecutors have to prosecute individuals who committed fraud through the Paycheck Protection Program or Covid-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, extending the statute of limitations for criminal and civil enforcement against a borrower to 10 years.
During a signing event held on the balcony of the White House on Friday, Biden underscored that it was “essential to extend the statute of limitations for certain pandemic fraud … to 10 years to make sure fraudsters can’t run out the clock.”
“My message to those cheats out there is this: You can’t hide. We’re going to find you. We’re going to make you pay back what you stole and hold you accountable under the law,” the President said.
In his remarks, Biden squarely blamed his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, for failing to promote safeguards against defrauding Covid-19 economic relief programs.
“Not only did the Trump administration let the biggest businesses with the teams of lawyers and accountants to the front of the line, my predecessor undermined the watchdogs who were supposed to be on the job to make sure relief went to the mom and pop businesses that were supposed to get in the first place,” said Biden, who was delivering remarks outdoors due to a rebound positive case of Covid-19. “In my State of the Union address, I made it clear: The watchdogs are back.”
“American people deserve to know whether their tax dollars are being spent as intended,” he said.
Along with calling on Congress to pass extensions of the statutes of limitation, the White House has pointed out that the President has also called for additional penalties for those who commit fraud on Covid-19 benefits and signed an executive order focused on identity theft in pandemic relief programs.
In the years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, federal prosecutors have continued to identify fraud related to pandemic relief funds.
The US Secret Service has seized more than a billion dollars in relief funds obtained by fraudsters and, in December, tapped a senior official to work with law enforcement agencies across the country on the issue.
In April, federal prosecutors charged 21 people for allegedly seeking to defraud government health care programs of $149 million through a variety of pandemic-related scams, including selling fake Covid-19 vaccination cards and submitting claims for unnecessary medical tests.
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CNN’s Evan Perez and Sean Lyngaas contributed to this report.