The Maine Department of Labor was one of eight states cited at a national conference for its efforts to prevent, detect and recover improper unemployment payments.
According to a release from the department, last June, the U.S. Department of Labor mandated that state unemployment systems target overpayment and benefit fraud. The feds sent Maine program guidance urging “an immediate call to action… to develop state specific strategies to bring down the UI improper payment rate,” according to the release.
From the Maine DOL:
Maine responded by implementing a new automated cross match with a national database of new hires. The system allows the state to identify unemployment claimants who may be working outside the state of Maine and not reporting earnings to the Maine Unemployment Insurance Program. In the short time the cross match has been in place, it has identified over 400 cases of individuals that were filing for unemployment benefits after starting new jobs with employers out of state.
Within the next two months, Maine will add a new automated wage verification system and a cross match with the Department of Corrections to prevent people who are incarcerated from receiving unemployment benefits. Funding for these efforts have come from Federal Unemployment grants targeted specifically at preventing improper unemployment benefit payments.
The release noted that the Legislature is now considering a bill that would block someone who has committed unemployment fraud on three separate occasions from collecting unemployment in the future. A provision in the legislation would allow the state labor commissioner to grant exceptions to the prohibition in unusual circumstances, the release said.
“Unemployment provides a critical safety net for workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” said Maine Labor Commissioner Robert Winglass in the release. “Our efforts to prevent improper payments will help ensure those benefits will be available to people who are truly qualified to receive them.”