WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden, isolated in the White House residence with covid-19, signed two measures Friday aimed at curbing fraud in pandemic relief programs.
The legislation, which passed Congress with bipartisan support, extends the statute of limitations to give prosecutors more time to file criminal charges.
"The American people deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent as intended," Biden said. "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."
By some estimates, billions of dollars that were supposed to help small businesses and people who lost their jobs could have ended up in the hands of fraudsters. The Justice Department has named a special prosecutor to target the issue.
"The watchdogs are back," Biden said.
The president spoke from a White House balcony, where he's delivered other public remarks while he's been isolating with a rebound case of covid-19.
He originally tested positive on July 21 and was treated with the anti-viral drug Paxlovid. He tested negative twice and ended several days of isolation, only to test positive again last Saturday.
The rebound case brought a recurrence of mild symptoms, including a cough.
The president's personal physician, Dr. Kevon O'Connor, wrote Friday that the cough "has almost completely resolved," although Biden still tested positive that morning.
Covid-19 has scrambled some of Biden's plans. However, recent days have also been a dramatically productive time for his presidency.
Democratic lawmakers reached an agreement on legislation to lower prescription drug prices, collect more tax revenue from corporations and spend hundreds of billions of dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Biden is counting on testing negative again soon. On Monday, the president and first lady Jill Biden are scheduled to travel to eastern Kentucky to survey the damage from last week's devastating floods and meet with those affected.
The White House announced Friday that the Bidens would join Gov. Andy Beshear and his wife, Britainy, at a Federal Emergency Management Agency State Disaster Recovery Center.
At least 37 people lost their lives in the flooding after 8 to 10½ inches of rain fell in just 48 hours last week in the Appalachian mountain region. The flooding also hit areas just across the state line in Virginia and West Virginia.
More than 1,300 people were rescued in the days after the storm as teams searched in boats and combed debris-clogged creekbanks. Work crews were still trying to restore power and water connections to homes, as residents look to repair their homes and lives after the floods.
Thunderstorms on Friday brought a renewed threat of flooding to parts of Kentucky ravaged by high water a week ago.
Information for this article was contributed by Chris Megerian and staff members of The Associated Press