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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

  • Organized efforts to steal the COVID-19 money — or partisan efforts to spin tales of waste — could not only hurt the infrastructure plan but Democrats at the polls in 2022.
  • Congressional Democrats also expect Republicans to repeat the claims of "waste, fraud and abuse" they used against President Obama's 2009 stimulus package.

What we're hearing: Crime syndicates have used data readily available online, as well as information from identity theft, to claim or intercept billions in pandemic unemployment benefits during the past year.

  • With more money headed out the door — including six monthly checks of $250 per child ages 6-17, and $300 for each under 6 starting in July — even more theft is possible.
  • Several of the chairmen on the call — which is held at 8:15 a.m. each Wednesday by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — said Sperling welcomed their oversight and wanted their help in preventing fraud, Axios was told.
  • Sperling is a veteran Democratic economic aide.

The big picture: Democrats know they risk political scandal if stories of graft dominate the coverage of Biden’s signature legislative package.

  • Sperling explained the White House’s commitment to transparency, both before House committees and various agency inspectors general.
  • The Justice Department also has been aggressive in pursuing pandemic fraud cases.

Rep. John Yarmuth, the Kentucky Democrat who heads the House Budget Committee, said he was a victim himself of COVID-19 relief fraud.

  • He said Sperling was "very focused" on mitigating abuse during the next round of funding.
  • "He basically said that, 'It's on me,'" Yarmouth told Axios.
  • Sperling explained about 40 separate agencies will have some responsibility for implementing the American Rescue Plan.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Death toll mounts as fighting between Israel and Hamas intensifies

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 109 Palestinians and seven people in Israel have been killed since recent fighting between Israel's military and Hamas began Monday.

The big picture: Israel began massing troops on its border with Gaza on Thursday, launching attacks from the air and ground as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel.

By the numbers: Where the earmarks are wanted

Expand chart
Data: House Committee on Appropriations; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is being targeted for the largest collective earmark request in the country, according to a detailed breakdown of overall requests released by the House Appropriations Committee.

Why it matters: House appropriators are trying to balance bipartisan momentum for infrastructure investment with "pork-barrel" spending's checkered political history. The data dump is an effort to provide transparency for what are now termed "community project funding" requests.

Democrats open to user fees for infrastructure deal

President Biden sits Thursday with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as they discuss his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some Senate Democrats are open to paying for a compromise infrastructure package by imposing user fees, including increasing the gas tax and raising money from electric car drivers through a vehicle-miles-traveled charge.

Why it matters: By inching toward the Republican position on pay-fors, some Democrats are bucking President Biden's push to offset his proposed $2.3 trillion plan by focusing only on raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.