Unemployment fraud cases hit record high in Alabama
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - More than 300,000 cases of unemployment fraud are under state investigation. Most of the cases involve pandemic relief money, and in the rush to claim that criminals took advantage.
The Alabama Department of Labor hit a record number of unemployment claims during the pandemic. The perfect storm of a mass volume of claims and lack of staff resulted in 389,000 unemployment fraud cases. That number is slowly starting to dwindle. But, officials say it remains a problem.
“Record numbers of unemployment claims. More than any other agency has ever dealt with in the history of the programs,” said Tara Hutchison with the Alabama Department of Labor.
The state is currently investigating 340,000 cases of suspected unemployment fraud.
This dates back to the start of the pandemic, March 2020 to now.
Investigators have combed through and cleared nearly 50,000 resulting in zero prosecutions, so far.
Hutchison says this involves only personal claims and does not include businesses. She says the department has managed to block more than 5 billion dollars from going into the wrong hands.
So how does the state continue to stay ahead of people attempting to game the system? Collaboration with local, federal, and state authorities.
“Just because someone has committed fraud in Alabama doesn’t mean that is the only place they have committed fraud. They could have committed fraud in multiple other states and they may not even be in Alabama. They may not even be in this county,” said Hutchison.
The State Department of Labor is working with local district attorneys and the State Attorney General’s office to track down fraudulent claims.
The increased concern over unemployment fraud inspired Alabama Senator Arthur Orr to propose a bill to implement new unemployment fraud detection practices at the department of labor.
“In a nutshell, what the legislation does is require the department to use technology that is out there and databases that are out there and do scans and searches of people to make sure they are not fraudulently accessing our unemployment compensation trust fund,” said Orr.
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