(The above headline has been corrected to accurately portray the estimated benefits paid out statewide. Apologies on the flubber.)
Justice of the Peace Steve Ward may have been onto something when he brought the issue of possible faulty payments in the Union County unemployment benefits fund months ago. Last week, the Arkansas Project blog reported on a study that points to $161 million in erroneous unemployment benefit payments in Arkansas alone.
The $161 million is part of $19 billion nationwide over the last three years that the U.S. Department of Labor credits to recipients continuing to receive payments after returning to work, employers not submitting timely or accurate reports of worker separations (the big stink at the Union County Quorum Court) and the recipients not correctly registering with the state agencies responsible for disseminating payments.
According to Talk Business, the state unemployment fund went $360 million into the red in money borrowed from the federal government to pay out jobless benefits.
The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services takes issue with the numbers reported by the U.S. Department of Labor and a in story released by the Wall Street Journal, stating that the $161 million reported by the WSJ is for a three-year time period ending on June 30, 2011, and the DOL’s $138,609,602 is taken from an unknown time period ending on June 30, 2010.
Other issues cited by the state agency include the statistical samples used by the DOL which it says could slew the data as much as 9.88 percent, the seven days the federal agency allows the state agency to make a payment following the validation of a claim and the high unemployment in the years studied.