LWC: 334 dead people in Louisiana collected over 1M in unemployment benefits during height of pandemic

State News

(KLFY) The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office (LLA) found that approximately $1.08 million (0.013%) in benefit payments were made to 374 individuals after their date of death.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission Secretary, Ava Cates says 334 of the deceased individuals are cases of stolen identity.

According to LLA, the state department of health is required each month to send the Louisiana Workforce Commission a list of individuals who died in Louisiana during the preceding month.

LWC then performs a data match of individuals receiving unemployment benefits to the file sent by LDH.

In addition, she says, LWC matches all new unemployment insurance claims against the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.

Although LWC updates its information on deceased individuals monthly, weekly data is available from LDH.
Tha audit reports recommends the commission cross check the deceased records database weekly instead of monthly.

LWC Secretary Cates says the pandemic led to normal rules falling by the wayside and with no new guidance on qualification rules.

“With that 1099 workers, gig workers and those that would have otherwise been ineligible to receive state unemployment insurance benefits suddenly became eligible with no guidance or rules from the federal government about how states were supposed to do this,” Cates said.

She adds in the first Cares Act, the federal government provided no rules to identify the income of people seeking benefits.

“If you were a 1099 worker, we could say show us your taxes to show you had been working,” Cates notes.

“We never faced a global pandemic before and as things started up, and as you progress, you realize where there were gaps in the system that was put in place,” she adds.

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office says the workforce commission, as recommended, will begin to check for deaths on a weekly basis instead of monthly.

“That’s the biggest take away is that they could improve the process and identify more people more quickly which could prevent additional dollars from going out the door,” LLA Data Analytics Manager Chris Magee said.

Another LLA recommendation is that the commission work to recoup improper payments from the bank accounts of the deceased individuals.

“If through the course of their investigation and in each one of these cases they find the person truly was dead and the benefits were given out improperly, they could go back and get those dollars from those individual accounts,” Magee stated.

The workforce commission has on its website a link for individual to reports cases of fraud.

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