Written by B. Collins
Published January 7, 2023 @ 8:30 PM ET
A recent audit by the Georgia State Inspector General has found that nearly 300 state employees have filed fraudulent employment claims, stealing over $6.7 million in state unemployment benefits.
The investigation identified 280 employees who applied for and collected the benefits despite still being employed by the state. These payments were made to employees in 2020 and 2021 as a part of the $6 trillion in emergency spending meant to prop up the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, around a few dozen employees have been identified, interviewed, and turned over to the attorney general for potential prosecution. All the identified employees have been terminated. The average payment to each of these employees was $23,700, with one employee, a Department of Human Services supervisor, who had stolen over $50,000 alone. Another woman worked as a claims manager at the Department of Labor and kept updating her fraudulent account while employed the entire time at the Department of Labor.
Bruce Thompson, the newly elected labor commissioner, called the audit shameful. “The fact that we have state employees committing fraudulent acts while we have other people who can’t get payments due to them, that’s a big problem,” Thompson said.
The inspector General’s office calls finding the rest of the employees “an uphill, if not impossible, task.”
The Inspector General, Scott McAfee, is asking the General Assembly to extend the statute of limitations for pandemic fraud. McAfee said there’s no way his office has the resources to investigate each of the 250 remaining employees suspected of fraud.