In a blog post yesterday, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) has released data on overpayment of unemployment benefits. As part of a plan to lower these overpayments, DoL will target certain states with high overpayment rates--including Washington.
Nearly $19 billion in state unemployment benefits were paid in error during the three years that ended in June, new Labor Department data show.
The amount represents more than 10% of the $180 billion in jobless benefits paid nationwide during the period. . . .
Improper payments most often occur when recipients claim benefits even though they have returned to work; employers or their administrators don’t submit timely or accurate information about worker separations; or recipients don’t correctly register with a state’s employment-service organization.
The Labor Department launched a plan to crack down on the improper payments, targeting Virginia, Indiana, Colorado, Washington, Louisiana and Arizona in particular for their high error rates. Those states will undergo additional monitoring and technical assistance until their error rates dip below 10% and remain there for at least six months, according to the Labor Department. . . .
The data is available at the DoL website here (and here for Washington specifically). Washington is one of 13 states with an improper payment rate of over 14 percent. The DoL data shows that over a three-year period, Washington's improper payment rate was 14.13 percent and improper payments totaled over $775 million. DoL estimates that 72 percent of the overpayment was due to "work search issues" (meaning that there was an "inability to validate that the individual has met the state's work search requirements, which disqualifies the claimant from being eligible for benefits.")
The WSJ post includes a handy sortable chart showing the total unemployment benefits paid, the estimated overpayment and the percent paid in error, by state. Per the post, though, DoL cautions:
it may be misleading to compare one state’s payment accuracy rates with another state’s rates… States with stringent or complex provisions tend to have higher improper payment rates than those with simpler, more straightforward provisions.
That said, according to the WSJ chart, Washington paid the 11th highest total amount of unemployment benefits from July 2010 to June 2011 and had the 9th highest overpayment over that period, making our percent paid in error 15.1 percent.