The Small Business Administration awarded up to $1.3 billion in pandemic relief to unqualified foreign applicants that may have included international criminal organizations, according to a report from the agency’s inspector general.
The report, released Monday, found the SBA approved and distributed 41,638 loans and grants to foreign applicants between March 20, 2020, and Nov. 12, 2021, through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Congress directed the SBA to provide these grants to businesses located in the United States that were impacted by the pandemic, but the agency acknowledged it failed to provide proper oversight of awards issued to foreign entities. The report found the SBA approved 3,097 grants for applicants in six unspecified “high-risk” countries, distributing $14.3 million to the recipients.
“The numerous applications submitted from foreign IP addresses are an indication of potential fraud that may involve international criminal organizations,” the report concluded.
The report is not the first to identify vast fraud throughout the program. A congressional oversight investigation in June concluded that 41 percent of the 3.9 million approved loan applications may not have been reviewed by the agency.