BATON ROUGE, LA (WVLA/WGMB) – A new audit says Louisiana paid more than $1 million in unemployment benefits to people who are deceased.
The question many are wondering is how does this happen? …And where is the money now?
The audit reveals that of the $8.57 billion in State and Federal Unemployment Insurance (UI), Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) gave 374 people $1.08 million. Unfortunately, they are no longer alive to receive these funds.
Louisiana Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Cates says that some of those people may have applied for benefits, and passed away shortly after, but some people attempted to get money they weren’t approved for.
“There were 7,000 attempts to file for deceased individuals that LWC caught in our normal operations process,” Cates explained. “We certainly want to be perfect, we want to be one-hundred. I don’t know if you can ever really be that with what we faced.”
LWC said that they were able to catch the majority of people attempting to take advantage of the system, but it appears that some people slipped through the cracks and were able to collect unemployment that wasn’t theirs to take, now, each case is being investigated.
“We will then see to attempt to identify what mailing address those went to, what bank accounts those went to, and then report that information to law enforcement,” Cates said.
And the consequences for fraud are strict.
“We have a Treasury Offset Program, TOPS, so we can seize your income tax, and will also not be eligible for State Unemployment Insurance or Federal Unemployment Insurance again, until that debt is retired,” Cates said. “It is also give to law enforcement where local law enforcement agents and agencies decide about prosecution because it is a federal crime.”
Senator John Kennedy, one time Treasurer for the State, kept an eye on these oversights.
“The workforce commission and Louisiana did a lot better than a lot of other states and the amount of volume that they had to deal with in a very short period of time was nothing shot of breathtaking,” Kennedy said.