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The pandemic of 2020 has affected all aspects of society. The economy in Pinal County and across the nation has been hit hard, but it is recovering because of help from the federal government and the resourcefulness of our market-driven system. Calls are being heard for a new stimulus from Congress. However, anything approved should include a strong degree of caution, and not just because trillions of debt are being piled on future generations. Another reason is because of the potential for waste.

The latter point is emphasized by a story in the news last week out of California. The Sacramento County district attorney revealed allegations that state bureaucrats had approved $140 million in unemployment benefits under the names of at least 20,000 prison inmates. Those names included convicted murderers Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner.

The DA said inmates filed claims in their own names, but sometimes fake names and Social Security numbers were used. The extent of the fraud indicated the inmates were mocking authorities, she added.

A reason given for the breakdown was that 16.4 million California claims since March overwhelmed those responsible for processing. However, everyone is embarrassed, prompting nine district attorneys to appeal to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called the problem “absolutely unacceptable.”

This unemployment fraud is not unique to California. Arizona investigators have dealt with it as well, causing some legitimate accounts to be frozen for a while.

All of this, including the huge cost in terms of adding to the federal debt, points to the importance of allowing the economy to revive with as little federal monetary intervention as possible. While some shutdowns have been warranted, especially when less was known about COVID-19, shutdowns are not the answer. With multiple vaccines nearly ready to distribute, the emphasis needs to be on a full restart of the economy. That benefits workers and taxpayers.

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