MacIver News Service | October 24, 2011[Madison, Wisc…] A Wisconsin Senate committee quickly and quietly approved a bill Monday Morning aimed at cracking down on unemployment insurance fraud.
The Senate’s Labor, Public Safety and Urban Affairs committee unanimously approved SB 219. Under the bill, anyone who commits unemployment insurance fraud would forfeit payments for those weeks, plus a penalty of 15 percent of the payments.
The fines would be used to set up the unemployment program integrity fund, which would then monitor unemployment insurance fraud in the state.
This move marks a continued effort on the part of the legislature to counter unemployment fraud. Over the summer the legislature approved a one week waiting period before new beneficiaries could begin collecting benefits. Supporters said that was an important tool in catching fraudulent claims.
As the MacIver News Service previously reported, unemployment benefit fraud in Wisconsin has skyrocketed over the past few years. Between 2008 and 2010, the amount of fraudulent payments shot up from $21 million to $78 million. The number of cases increased 130 percent. The amount of overpayments over $1,000 that were intentionally concealed went from $9.25 million in 2007 to $40.5 million in 2010, a 338 percent increase.
Even with the cases of fraud increasing, few people have been successfully prosecuted for it. In order to face punitive action, a person must have fraudulently received more than $5000 in benefits and committed 5 acts of concealment. In 2010, 2,169 people met those requirements, yet only 31 of them were prosecuted. That resulted in 11 convictions.