ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York auditors say the state mistakenly authorized nearly $3 million in unemployment payments for people who were dead, employed, out of the country, not authorized to work in the U.S. or had exceeded their benefits.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says $1.9 million was prevented from actually being paid, while the state Labor Department should pursue recovery of $1.1 million.
Labor officials say they have increased fraud-fighting measures by funding five positions in the comptroller's office to ensure overpayments are quickly identified and recouped, the very staff who identified the overpayments in this report.
That $3 million is less than 1 percent of $7.1 billion paid out to 1.13 million people in 2012.
2 On Your Side requested a phone interview with the Labor Department, but that was denied. A spokesperson sent the following statement:
The Department of Labor has significantly increased its fraud-fighting measures and systems to detect improper payments in recent years. One way is by funding five positions within the Comptroller's Office to ensure all overpayments are identified to be recouped as quickly as possible. It was those five Department of Labor-funded employees who found the overpayments presented in the report.
The $3 million addressed by the Comptroller's Office is .042 percent of $7.1 billion paid out to 1.13 million people in 2012. The overpayments totaled .016% of that. The process to recoup these inappropriate payments predated this report.
Regarding any payments to deceased individuals, the Labor Department paid out $36,000 over the course of a year and stopped payments as soon as we received notification of death. The Comptroller's Office has not yet responded to requests on how the Labor Department can improve our current systems for identifying deceased individuals.
In 2012, New York State was selected to create a single UI National Integrity Center of Excellence by the United States Department of Labor and United States Office of Management and Budget. New York is now a laboratory for innovation to identify, develop, and pilot new strategies and tools to combat improper payment and fraud on a national level. Last year, more than 700 fraud cases investigated and worked up by Labor Department investigators were referred for criminal prosecution. In the last year alone, $30.6 million has been recovered.