I am concerned that the article, “Report: La. overpaid on jobless claims,” may have left readers with the wrong impression.
The White House and U.S. Department of Labor inaccurately characterized improper unemployment payments by Louisiana as “waste, fraud and abuse.”
The numbers being reported by U.S. Department of Labor for Louisiana are not all overpayments, nor should those amounts be collectively viewed as “waste, fraud and abuse.”
In reality, about half (47 percent) of the total of improper payments being reported for Louisiana contained NO overpayments or fraud of any kind. In those cases, the right people received the right amount of benefits.
The error resulted from the unemployment insurance system not recognizing that the claimants had registered with the Louisiana Workforce Commission to search for work, as those claimants were required to do.
The LWC automated the system last year, and since then, the error rate associated with work searches has improved 89 percent.
The largest cause of errors today stems from claimants who continue to file for unemployment benefits after they return to work. To combat this issue, the LWC is aggressively attacking fraud with a cutting-edge fraud-detection system.
Partnerships with other state agencies allow the LWC to cross-match data, and an agreement with the Attorney General’s Office provides for the prosecution of those committing fraud. This initiative has resulted in 47 arrests since April, and more are pending. We also aggressively pursue collections through the garnishment of state tax refunds.
The remaining errors in unemployment benefits stem from inaccurate, incomplete, late or false reporting of employment or separation information by claimants or employers. Employers can already eliminate almost all overpayments by quickly reporting all new hires, rehires, separations and wage records, and by responding quickly when notified that a claim has been filed. Employers, who pay unemployment insurance taxes, will benefit the most from their vigilance.
Combating improper payment of unemployment insurance benefits is and has been a high priority in Louisiana. Our progress since 2010 alone makes us one of the most improved states in the country. Although our error rate still is not where we want it to be, Louisiana’s overall sound management of its unemployment insurance program has contributed to the state having the third-strongest unemployment trust fund and one of the lowest unemployment insurance tax rates in the country. I hope the errors in the federal reports from Washington, D.C., don’t cause those facts to be overlooked.
Curt Eysink, executive director
Louisiana Workforce Commission