The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has identified 681,400 overpayments over the past three years, totaling $167.9 million. That’s the result of individuals intentionally (9.5 percent) and unintentionally (84.7 percent) providing inaccurate information.
The Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) released the findings of this audit today (Tuesday). The report shows the total amount of overpayments recouped by DWD declined steadily in the previous three years, from $51.7 million to $42.3 million. It typically takes years to fully recoup overpayments that DWD identifies. The $42.3 million recouped in FY 2013-14 included overpayments that DWD had identified over the prior 26 years.
Individuals file initial claims through an automated telephone system, online, or by contacting one of DWD’s two call centers. LAB found that almost 1.7 million calls to the call centers, or 60.2 percent of the total, were blocked in fiscal year 2013-14 because call center staff were busy and the telephone queues were full. From December 2013 through January 2014, when call volumes were high, LAB found that more than 80 percent of calls to the telephone line for filing initial claims were blocked. However, from February 2014 through June 2014, less than 10 percent of such calls were blocked
DWD attributed the high call volume to the December 2013 expiration of federal emergency unemployment benefits and indicated other individuals called to file initial claims after their holiday-related jobs ended or after their work hours were reduced because of harsh winter weather. LAB reports that DWD is taking steps to reduce the likelihood that large numbers of calls will be blocked in December 2014 and January 2015, when many individuals may attempt to file claims. These steps include the implementation of a new computer system in November 2014, hiring of additional limited-term employees, and tasking additional DWD staff to help answer calls.
LAB recommends DWD report to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in March 2015 on its experience over the next several months.