Louisiana audit finds $2.9M in improper jobless payments


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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana made $2.9 million in unemployment payments during the coronavirus pandemic that didn’t appear to follow state and federal regulations governing the program, according to an audit released Monday.

Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack’s office reviewed unemployment benefits handed out from February 2020 through April 2021. The auditors said they identified improper payments the state labor department, known as the Louisiana Workforce Commission, hadn’t yet attempted to recollect through August.

Nearly $2 million of the improper payments in the audit involved people receiving jobless benefits that exceeded the maximum weekly amount allowed.

In a written response, Louisiana Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Cates said “mistakes are inevitable” with new temporary federal programs created during the pandemic that expanded eligibility and payment amounts. But she said her agency will be working to recoup funds from people improperly paid.

Auditors reviewed the unemployment program because of the surge in jobless rolls during the pandemic, which largely drained the state’s unemployment trust fund.

The state paid out $9.8 billion in state and federal jobless aid to more than 794,000 people from the end of March 2020 through July 2021, according to the report. Lawmakers used federal aid to help bail out the fund and keep it solvent.

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