Hundreds of State Employees Got COVID Pandemic Unemployment?
Mistakes are going to happen. Identity theft is going to happen. But the State Legislative Auditor's report found that these issues don't account for all of the hundreds of cases where state employees received Unemployment Insurance through the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
One of the finds from the Legislative Auditor's report shows that between February 2, 2020, and July 24, 2021, they must continue to investigate the cases of1,054 state employees who were not eligible for the payments, but who did receive unemployment payments.
A year-to-year analysis shows that from March 2020 to March 2021, some $2.1 million ended up being paid out to state employees who were ineligible to receive it. Another analysis contained in the report shows $2.1 million was paid out to 371 people who were not eligible to receive it. Basically, the audit says that a total of 1,054 were making more than $250 per week which is the standard for eligibility in the state of Louisiana.
One example that was cited in the audit is the one person who works full-time for the state of Louisiana, and who was paid the entire time of the pandemic, also got unemployment payments. The man was making, on average, about $800 a week for his state job. He drove for Lyft part-time. He applied and between May of 2020 and May of 2021, he was paid $26,097 in unemployment compensation.
What Happens Now?
- The Legislative Auditor's Office made some recommendations to the Louisiana Workforce Commission which they agreed to and will start doing:
- They will analyze LaGov employment data to find if people are employed with the state before they hand out unemployment benefits.
- They will analyze Human Resource records through LaGov employment data to find if people are employed with the state before they hand out unemployment benefits.
- They recommended that LWC continue to investigate state employees who got more than they were supposed to. LWC says they will.
- They will try to recoup the money that was sent to ineligible people.
Louisiana Department of Labor Secretary Ava Cates did respond in writing to Legislative Auditor Michael Waguespack that they are on top of the situation. she also noted that some of the findings of this audit were already unveiled in the findings of a similar audit in March 2021.
She also pointed out in her letter that due to COVID-19 there were unprecedented amounts of claims that came into the Louisiana Workforce Commission. In an effort to get money in the hands of the unemployed, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 243 delayed the reporting of quarterly wages. She says this often prevented LWC workers from cross-checking to see if claimants were in fact employed by the state.
She says steps were immediately taken when the March 2021 audit was released to began to investigate hundreds of claims that were illegitimate.
Cates, also in the letter, pointed out the importance of both state and federal investigators looking into those that might have been ineligible to received unemployment. She points out that a database may not tell the entire story when it comes to benefits. She sites several scenarios where the people in question might have qualified to receive some of the benefits:
- If someone is an adjunct university faculty member.
- If someone was on leave where no vacation or sick leave was paid.
- If someone's average pay exceeded the weekly benefit amount but actual earnings for the week did not.
- If someone was separated from their employment prior to filing a claim.
- If someone was employed part-time.
If you would like to see Cates' letter to Waguespack, you can click here. This link also includes the auditor's full report.