INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The state of Indiana can’t tell us how much money has been lost to unemployment fraud or how many people are still waiting for unemployment claims to be paid.
I-Team 8 has made repeated requests to the Department of Workforce Development for a sit-down interview with Commissioner Fred Payne. The requests have been denied, so I-Team 8 took questions to Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Federal unemployment benefits come to an end this week. And Marion County health orders are keeping many of the self-employed contract and gig workers that serve the hospitality industry from going back to work. Holcomb says it is time to look elsewhere for work.
“If they are eligible for unemployment benefits, then they are eligible to work, correct? So we want to help them skill up in a different profession if theirs is gone, right? They choose to chart their own course, we want them to know there is an abundance of opportunity out there now in this new economy,” said Holcomb.
Federal unemployment benefits have been a source of fraud across the country.
I-Team 8 previously reported about an Ohio unemployment fraud scheme that cost Ohio nearly $1 billion. I-Team 8 has asked the Department of Workforce Development for a dollar figure, and they can’t tell us how much money has been lost to fraud, but they did send a statement that says: “Fraud investigations take time to complete. We do not have a full picture of this yet.”
Another unclear picture from DWD is the number of cases backlogged in the system. The department claims that 89% of all weekly vouchers submitted since March of this year have been resolved. Of the remaining 11% that have not been paid, many of those are suspected of fraud.
And again, the department said, “87% of those have indicators of fraud that require a more lengthy investigation.”
The only solid numbers I-Team 8 has been given from the department is the number of people the state has hired to process unemployment claims.
In the past year DWD has tripled the number of people processing unemployment claims. They have added 800 people to the department, 355 of those temporary positions.
Earlier this month, the FBI issued a press release that says $120,000 of unemployment benefits had been hijacked from Hoosiers. I-Team 8 asked DWD to confirm that number, and again no response.