Eye On Boise

TUESDAY, NOV. 1, 2011, 1:30 P.M.

70% of Idaho employers aren’t complying with new-hires reporting law

Most Idaho employers aren't complying with a law requiring them to report new hires to the state Department of Labor within 20 days, the department says, making it harder for the department to track things like overpaid unemployment benefits and deadbeat parents who owe child support. AP reporter Jessie Bonner reports that only about 30 percent of employers are complying with the 1997 state law; click below for her full report.

Most Idaho employers bypass reporting law
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press


BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Most Idaho employers don't comply with a law requiring them to report new hires to the state Department of Labor within 20 days, making it harder for officials to track things like overpaid unemployment benefits and deadbeat parents who owe child support.

Only about 30 percent of employers comply with the 1997 state law that was passed to help Idaho better identify employees who owe child support so their wages can be garnished, the Labor Department said in a statement Tuesday.

The law also helps the state track cases where people keep collecting unemployment benefits after returning to work.

The employers that do comply with the law are among Idaho's largest, accounting for about two-thirds of the state's total workforce. The Labor Department is working to boost compliance among the rest of the state's employers as part of a long-term plan to crack down on unemployment benefit fraud and overpayments.

A federal audit in September found that Idaho improperly doled out about $82 million in unemployment benefits during a three-year period.

The report from the U.S. Department of Labor detailed improper payments by states across the country and was based on a sample of claims. It found more than 9 percent of Idaho's payments were in error during the three-year period that ended June 30.

Nearly 70 percent of the improper payments found in Idaho involved residents who continued to receive benefits after returning to work and people who were improperly disqualified from receiving benefits because the state Labor Department couldn't validate they met the state's job search requirements.

The federal agency, however, has acknowledged that the sample sizes used to compile the report were too small to accurately reflect the error rate, said Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick. Idaho's long-range plan to reduce unemployment fraud and the federal audit are unrelated, Fick said.

To help prevent overpayments, the state's Labor Department cross-matches the list of new hires reported by Idaho employers with the names of those receiving unemployment benefits. The agency has recovered more than $3 million in overpayments since the economic downturn started in December 2007, officials said.

But when employers fail to comply with state law and report new hires within 20 days, the Labor Department said it can take the state months to identify workers who have continued to collect benefits after returning to the workforce. It also becomes increasingly difficult to recoup that money.

There is no penalty for Idaho employers not complying with the state law on reporting new hires within 20 days, Fick said.

"Unemployment benefits play a critical economic role in Idaho, ensuring that workers laid off during severe recessions like this last one get some assistance in paying their bills so they're still here when the economy picks up and employers need them," department director Roger Madsen said in a statement.

"But the Department of Labor is committed to making sure that benefits go only to those who legitimately deserve them and in the amounts they deserve," he said.


Idaho Department of Labor: http://labor.idaho.gov


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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