The wave of COVID-related layoffs led to the increase in claims. The increase in claims led to an increase in suspected fraud. Unemployment agency director Steve Gray told a joint House and Senate committee that created opportunities for people who’ve been collecting stolen identity information.
“These are criminals that have been planning this for years, and are taking advantage of, you know, the ‘perfect storm,’” said Gray.
He said identity theft played a large part in a backlog of payments to people waiting on benefits. Gray said so many people filed for unemployment that it also jammed the programs to protect against fraud. He said that created opportunities for identity thieves.
“And so, we’ve had to make adjustments to our system, and that’s one of the reasons why we put the additional identity checks in place.”
Gray said other states have seen the same type of ramp up in attempted fraudulent claims.
He promised the backlog in challenged claims filed before May will be cleared by the July 4th weekend. He says more than 11,800 people who are waiting will either be paid or told their claim’s been denied.
Republican Senator Kim LaSata said her office has been flooded with complaints.
“I mean, we can’t continue to wait and see and, you know, I can get my hair cut. I can go to a restaurant now. I can do – We’ve been going to the grocery store. What? What? Something needs to be done today.”
LaSata asked when unemployment offices will be open for in-person visits. Gray said plans are underway, but he also said telephone and online interactions typically take less time.