‘This is a pretty sad thing that Ga. taxpayers are on the hook for:’ State audit reveals over $6.7M stolen in unemployment benefits

State audit reveals over $6.7M stolen in unemployment benefits
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 7:12 PM EST
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - The Georgia inspector general is reporting hundreds of state unemployment workers received millions in unemployment funding during the pandemic. That bombshell report says many of those full-time state employees received thousands of dollars each.

The Office of the State Inspector General sent a letter to Governor Brian Kemp’s office after an audit into unemployment insurance fraud. The audit found roughly that $6.7 million dollars in unemployment benefits were illegally collected.

The letter stated that over 280 full-time state employees received on average about $23,700 per employee. They say that is a conservative estimate.

These are just a few of the other findings:

  • A claims examiner received over $31,000 while employed with the Georgia Department of Labor (DOL).
  • A department of revenue tax examiner received $19,000 while employed with the office of special investigations.
  • Three Georgia Department of Corrections employees filed unemployment claims while on duty.

The state inspector general gave several recommendations to help tackle this issue. At the top of that list was extending the statute of limitations for prosecuting pandemic-related fraud.

“He’s encouraging them to get with legislatures and the general assembly to extend the statute of limitations for the time these kinds of crimes can be prosecuted. It’s a pretty sad thing that Georgia taxpayers are on the hook for,” William Underwood, a trial attorney, said.

William Underwood spoke on the unemployment fraud saying this is a pretty sad thing that...
William Underwood spoke on the unemployment fraud saying this is a pretty sad thing that happened.(Source: WALB)

In 2021, The House and The General Assembly passed unanimously, 163 to zero to extend the statute of limitations of prosecuting those who committed fraud, but it wasn’t brought up in the Senate.

“Just speculation, the only reason it didn’t get brought up in the Senate possibly is because whoever the new person is at the DOL, must said they’re going to cooperate anyway. There’s already been a federal legislation that President Biden’s increased the statute of limitations on that from five years to 10 years for prosecution in PPP cases. So I suspect the state may do something similar,” Underwood said.

The State Inspector General says this may be one of the largest frauds in American history. Most of the accused unemployment workers have been fired. Now comes potential legal action.