By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Serve time, collect an unemployment check.
An audit of the Department of Workforce Development, or DWD, obtained by Wisconsin Reporter found 236 inmates received unemployment checks through August, with the overpayments costing Wisconsin taxpayers more than $325,000.
Prisoners collecting payments is just the tip of the iceberg, however, for an unemployment fraud problem that has ballooned in recent years with the spike in the number of jobless and extended benefits.
Andrea Reid, deputy administrator in DWD’s Unemployment Insurance Division, recently presented her findings to the governor’s Commission on Fraud, Waste and Abuse, a panel of lawmakers and others charged with ferreting out sources of government bloat.
Less than half of the overpayments, on average, to Wisconsin’s jail and prison system inmates involved fraud, Workforce Development spokesman John Dipko told Wisconsin Reporter Wednesday.
In some cases, Dipko said, an inmate’s friend or relative would report an unemployment claim for the prisoner.
While Dipko said the overpayment figures are significant to taxpayers, they represent a fraction of the $3.1 billion in unemployment benefits the division paid in 2010.