The Louisiana Workforce Commission sent $6.2 million in state and federal unemployment insurance payments to people who are incarcerated and not eligible for the benefits, according to a recent report from the Louisiana legislative auditor.
The audit found that 1,195 individuals received checks from LWC. Roughly 90 of those individuals were identified by LWC and removed from unemployment rolls after just one week of benefits, but more than 1,000 received benefits for more than a week. However, some of the ineligible recipients continued to get benefits from March through November 2020. In Louisiana, state law says that people who are incarcerated may not obtain jobs; the ability to get employment is necessary to qualify for unemployment benefits.
The legislative auditor found that most of the 1,195 people identified had qualified for the benefits through the federal CARES Act program designed for contractors and gig workers. Contract and gig workers’ income is not reported to LWC by employers, since these individuals are not classified as employees. As a result, LWC did not have electronic wage data to use for eligibility purposes and instead had to rely upon the amount of income reported by the applicant on their application for unemployment benefits in order to make eligibility determinations.
LWC says these potentially improper payments occurred because its data match between its unemployment benefit information and its vendor’s incarceration data did not work correctly. The agency is working with its software vendor to identify and resolve the issue. In addition, LWC says it’s working through cases identified internally as potentially fraudulent and/or overpaid, as well as cases identified by the audit. According to LWC, it is taking steps to recoup payments for cases identified as fraudulent and/or overpaid.