Audit: Unemployment benefits paid to prisoners during the pandemic

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A state audit finds the Louisiana Workforce Commission paid out six-point-two million dollars in unemployment benefits to nearly 12-hundred prisoners. Data Analytics Manager for the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, Chris Magee, says it’s a conservative number since they only looked at unemployment applications for the first half of 2020.

“This really shows that there is an issue with this process but doesn’t fully capture the magnitude of the issue.”

Magee says L-W-C has told them the problem is with a vendor that multiple states use that tracks incarceration data…

“According to LWC and the vendor basically the data match was not working as intended during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Magee says LWC plans on trying to recoup the unemployment benefits that went to prisoners. He says in most of the cases they’ve identified, incarcerated individuals received multiple unemployment checks.

“Those who received it for two, three weeks and then all the way through the pandemic, they’re incarcerated the entire time and the process really should be catching those individuals.”

The LWC says they are trying to determine why there was an issue with the cross-matching process which helps identify if individuals are eligible for benefits. The state agency says the potential overpayments found by the Legislative Auditor represent well less than one percent of the 900-thousand individuals paid since the start of the pandemic.