State turns attention to unemployment insurance fraud

Approximately 40 fraudulent claims have been identified in the past week.

The state’s department of labor announced Tuesday it would take action against fraudulent claims of unemployment insurance benefits provided the coronavirus relief bill.

“The Department of Labor and Workforce Development will vigorously pursue all fraudulent activities to the fullest extent of the law,” Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter said in a June 2 press release.

Cathy Munoz, department of labor deputy commissioner, said via email that approximately 40 fraudulent claims have been identified in the past week.

“Fraudulent claims reduce the amount of funds available to help Alaskan families who are unemployed and in need of assistance,” Munoz said. “The Department takes fraudulent activity to collect UI benefits very seriously.”

There were 48,000 continued unemployment insurance claims in Alaska as of the week of May 16, according to a May 27 report from the Department of Labor. In addition to the number of continued claims, 8,152 initial claims were filed that week. Continued unemployment insurance claims were down by 2,049 from the previous week, but 41,399 higher than the same time last year.

Alaska’s job count was down by 42,200 jobs in April of 2020 when compared to April of 2019. According to the latest data from the department of labor, the preliminary unemployment rate for the Kenai Peninsula Borough in April was 17.2%. In March, the unemployment rate in the borough was 7.2%.

A person commits unemployment insurance fraud by knowingly submitting false information, knowingly continuing to collect benefits when ineligible, intentionally collecting benefits without reporting wages or income or not reporting when suitable employment or available work is refused, according to the release.

A person may be committing fraud if they refuse an offer of work because unemployment insurance pays more than their weekly wage. Requesting to have hours reduced or quitting available work in order to obtain benefits is also considered fraud.

A person found guilty of fraudulently collecting unemployment benefits will be ineligible for any additional payments, must repay the benefits received and is subject to criminal prosecution.

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