Mississippi state auditor discusses misuse of unemployment payments

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Mississippi State Auditor Shad White released an audit report that shows the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) misused $117 million.

“Unfortunately when we saw this spike in unemployment benefits payments going out the door, we also saw a spike in the amount of improper payments,” said White.

He continued, “Some things were outside the control of the MDES. For instance, the system that allowed them to verify somebody’s social security was accurate, that system was down for a period of months.”

White said unemployment benefits were made to the people who were still employed, incarcerated or ineligible to receive unemployment benefits in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What you ended up with was a recipe for folks getting unemployment benefits that didn’t deserve them. Folks who were trying to defraud the system, pretending to be unemployed,” said White.

Officials said this trend is happening across the country, tracing back to the start of the pandemic.

“I think they’re going to have to work over the next little while to get that money back as much as they can. It’s going to be very, very difficult because a lot of it has already gone out the door,” said White.

Officials said the focuse now is on efforts to prevent fraud on the front end and to try and pocket some of that money back to the MDES.

The findings were released on June 22 in the latest annual audit issued by the state’s auditor’s office. The Secret Service is handling the national effort to investigate crimes involving compensation.

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