Business

Audit: Idaho improperly paid $82 million in benefits

BOISE — An Idaho agency that doles out unemployment benefits improperly made about $82 million in payments over a three-year period, a federal audit found.

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.

The state paid out a total of $930 million in unemployment benefits during that time, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.

Nearly 70 percent of the improper payments in Idaho involved residents who continued to receive benefits after returning to work and people who were improperly disqualified from receiving benefits because the labor department could not validate they met the state’s job search requirements.

The report did not reflect money the state recouped from improper payments that were detected, Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick said Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press.

“People in our compliance bureau question whether those numbers accurately reflect the error rate that actually occurs,” Fick said.

The state recovered $3.9 million in improper benefit payments in 2007; $3.8 million in 2008; $4.2 million in 2009; and $5.5 million in 2010, Fick said. So far this year, the agency has recovered about $5.2 million as of August, Fick said.

The report found Idaho had the lowest error rate when compared to other states in the Pacific Northwest during the three-year time span. Washington state had the highest at 14.1 percent and more than $775 million in improper unemployment payments, according to the report.

Oregon had a 12.2 error rate and $392.4 million in improper payments while 11.8 percent of Alaska’s payments — or roughly $56.1 million — were made in error.

The federal report was released last week and the data for the state was first reported by Idahoreporter.com, which is funded by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a group that advocates against what it calls government waste and for free-market solutions.

States have a Sept. 30 deadline to submit plans to the federal government on how they plan to curb improper payments.



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