Tag Archives: unemployment benefits

Audit finds dead, prisoners, state employees drawing unemployment benefits

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Department of Labor officials say they are continuing to collect millions of dollars of unemployment benefits that were improperly paid out.

This comes after a scathing audit by the Tennessee comptroller’s office that said prisoners, state employees and at least one dead person have been on the rolls of those receiving unemployment benefits in Tennessee, in spite of repeated warnings that the state was improperly paying out tens of millions of dollars in jobless claims.

The comptroller’s audit said the unemployment benefit system made overpayments of $98 million in the past six years. It estimated a backlog of payments could balloon that figure to $171 million.

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development officials took issue with that estimate and other findings in the audit.

The state overpaid $165 million in the past six years but have been able to collect $71.5 million of it and continue to pursue the money.

“We’re really actively pursuing getting that overpayment balance down,” unemployment administrator Linda Davis said. She said the department had several tools to go after the money, including garnishing wages and seizing tax refunds.

The audit looked at whether several state agencies receiving federal money were in compliance during the 2013-2014 fiscal year. It was pointedly critical of the unemployment benefit system because the same problems had been noted in previous years. In 2013, former Labor Commissioner Karla Davis and two of her top administrators abruptly resigned before the release of an audit showing massive overpayments of unemployment benefits.

“To prevent further erosion of the public’s trust in the (unemployment insurance) program, management needs to aggressively implement full corrective actions to the numerous control and compliance deficiencies,” a portion of the audit read.

The audit also noted long delays and officials not randomly checking on whether people receiving benefits were complying with a state law that says they must verify at least three job searches a week.

State officials said they have increased response times to citizens and they are complying with the law because those receiving jobless benefits can either show they have tried to find work or that they have received services through a career center.

Note: Updates, expands and replaces prior post

State paying unemployment benefits to jailed felons; legitimate jobless people get a busy signal

For the second year in a row, state auditors have found numerous problems with the state’s unemployment benefits system, reports The Tennessean.

An audit last year found that at least $73 million in jobless benefits were improperly paid out. But this year’s version found that the amount had ballooned to $181 million. And it found new problems with ineligible people — dead and alive — drawing benefits.

People with legitimate claims to unemployment, meanwhile, continue to struggle with a phone system nearly impossible to get through, the new audit found. Those lucky enough to have their calls answered — about 15 percent of callers according to June 2013 statistics — endured nearly an hour of waiting, on average.

“I just sit and I redial, redial, redial, I try all hours of the day,” said Karen Lacey, a Nashville resident who has been trying to get unemployment benefits since March 3. “It’s been a big problem.”

The state audit looked at the Tennessee Department Of Labor and Workforce Development and its handling of federal tax dollars during the 2013 fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2013. Just two months before that, then-Commissioner Karla Davis and two of her top administrators resigned.

The new audit found that the state still wasn’t ensuring that everyone receiving unemployment qualified for that benefit. A sample size of 200 accounts found that more than 10 percent didn’t have proper documentation.

Simple cross-matches comparing unemployment beneficiaries to other databases found that the state had been giving unemployment benefits to at least 19 people employed by the state of Tennessee. Auditors also found that three dead people had been paid unemployment.

The findings echo an audit last year, which found 24 state employees and seven dead people receiving benefits.

But in a new twist, this year’s audit found that 84 felons behind bars had also been cut unemployment checks. Part of the problem, auditors found, was that the labor department didn’t know how to check for convicted felons in county jails. But six of those 84 were in state prisons — a fact the Labor Department didn’t explain.

Alexander, Corker oppose extended unemployment benefits

Not surprisingly, Tennessee’s two U.S. senators oppose Democrat-sponsored legislation to revive long-term unemployment benefits that expired last week.

Here are statements they issued prior to a scheduled Senate floor vote late Monday that wound up being postponed until Tuesday.

From Sen. Lamar Alexander:
“I will not vote to bring this legislation to the floor unless senators have an opportunity to debate and vote on the many good ideas for helping unemployed Americans find a job. Unfortunately, the Senate appears to be starting the new year just like the old one ended, with the Democratic leader bypassing committee consideration and cutting off all amendments and debate on an important issue.”

From Sen. Bob Corker:
“Unfortunately, this bill is being jammed through, has not been considered in committee, and will not be able to be amended on the floor. Spending $6.5 billion in three months without trying to find ways to pay for it or improve the underlying policy is irresponsible and takes us in the wrong direction.”

On the loss of unemployment benefits for 1.3 million nationwide, 18,000 in TN

From the Commercial Appeal:
More than 1 million Americans — including 18,000 Tennesseans — are girding for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as federal jobless benefits come to a screeching halt this weekend.

“The best way I can describe it is it’s simply horrifying,” said Midtown resident Saint Roland Jeancharles, 35.

He has been on unemployment since he lost his $75,000-a-year job as business systems analyst for ServiceMaster in April 2012.

…In Tennessee, the average(benefit payment) is $235 a week, or $1,018 a month. (The maximum is $275 per week.)

…The Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development announced earlier this month that the agency has been alerting more than 18,000 Tennesseans receiving federally extended unemployment insurance that those payments will soon end.

“We don’t want people who are presently receiving (emergency unemployment compensation)to be caught unaware, expecting their EUC benefits to continue into 2014,” Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips said in mid-December. “We also want workers to know that the Tennessee unemployment insurance program that provides the first 26 weeks of benefits is not affected by the expiration of the federal EUC extension.”

After Saturday, Tennessee will return to the system in which an approved new claim can have a maximum of 26 weeks of Tennessee Unemployment Compensation benefits.

Here’s a national AP story on the matter, subject of a dispute between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, of course.
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