The Louisiana Workforce Commission distributed just over one-hundredth of its total unemployment benefits to people who died during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, which noted that the vast majority of these erroneous payments were inevitable and in large part. part the result of bad timing.
According to a report released last week, the legislative auditor found that approximately $ 1.08 million in unemployment benefits was paid to 374 people who died during the pandemic, which is a very small percentage (0.013%) of total unemployment distributions which the Commission de la main-d’oeuvre made from March 30. 2020, until April 30, 2021.
The auditor found that $ 629,091 of erroneous payments could not have been avoided because the benefits were paid before the Louisiana Department of Health received death reports or death certificates for beneficiaries of the. unemployment.
Approximately $ 337,007 of payments should have been avoided by current Workforce Commission controls, and $ 123,194 could have been avoided if the Workforce Commission had matched weekly rather than monthly data on deaths of residents of the Department of health.
The health department is required to send the manpower commission a list of those who died in Louisiana during the previous month each month. The commission then matches the data of people receiving unemployment insurance benefits with the file sent by the health service. Additionally, the Workforce Board compares all new jobless claims against the Social Security Administration’s Master Death File.
In all cases found by the auditor, the labor commission may attempt to recover erroneous payments.
The labor commission identified several issues that likely caused the improper payments. First, the data match with the Social Security master death file worked, but the commission’s checks did not stop payments for deceased people receiving federal unemployment assistance. The commission identified and resolved this problem at the start of the pandemic. Second, in some cases, the commission initially identified the claimant as deceased, but staff still cleared it based on the uploaded identity documents.
Finally, some of the irregular payments were the result of fraud or identity theft. The labor commission said it is currently reviewing cases identified as potential fraud or overpayments, according to the auditor’s report. When fraud or overpayments are identified, the commission attempts to enter into a repayment agreement with the individual. If this proves unsuccessful, then the state can levy on the individual’s tax returns.
In its response to the Legislative Auditor, the Labor Commission noted that identity theft has and will continue to plague states administering federal CARES benefits, such as unemployment assistance. Initially, the unemployment program allowed individuals to file and receive benefits without any declared income from a covered employer. This is where most fraud has entered, the commission said.
In her written response to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report, Workforce Board Secretary Ava Cates wrote that “the initial ban on requiring proof of employment hampered the ability (to commission) to detect that a person had died prior to the report.
“Normal unemployment insurance operations require all state labor agencies to validate the claimant’s statements against salary records and employer responses,” Cates wrote. “The LWC was explicitly prohibited from using this long-standing principle of integrity during the first months of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Therefore, these allegations bypassed our first line of defense.
Cates wrote that the Commission would pursue “more frequent cross-correspondence” with the health department for death records, as recommended, but said that would not prevent all inappropriate payments in the future. “It is virtually impossible to be immediately informed that an individual has died,” she said.
THE MORNING BULLETIN