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THE INVESTIGATORS: LWC Secretary says fraud attempts play large role in delays with unemployment

Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 10:08 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Every single day WAFB receives emails and calls from many folks all about the same thing-- unemployment.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission gave WAFB’s Scottie Hunter a rare inside look to show what is being done to try to get those unanswered calls heard.

Our cameras were not allowed to go far but Secretary Ava Dejoie says the work is happening behind the scenes.

“It has been nonstop from the team and we continue to do that because we know people are in need,” said Dajoie.

Most of the employees are working in shifts out of three separate call centers but she says a large chunk of the power through your claims from home.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the Dejoie how they hold all of their employees accountable that are working in several different places.

“That’s a great question,” said Dejoie. “With the IVR system, we’re able to determine how long each staff person is on a call for and how many calls they’re handling in a day and we know not everyone is going to handle the same number of calls in a day but we are able to monitor.”

One man who did not want to be identified told WAFB he is desperate and out of options.

“You got a better chance of last week playing the billion dollar lottery than getting a callback and getting your situation taken care of at LWC,” he said. “After you send a hundred emails and you call a hundred times, anybody will start feeling like it’s hopeless.”

After being laid off a few months ago, he said he was evicted, his phone was shut off and his kids went without for Christmas. It is the lowest point of his life which he believes will only get worse the longer he gets left on hold.

“If you hadn’t by the grace of God picked my email and I’m here talking to you, I’d just be in another position waiting,” he added.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Dejoie why people are still having trouble getting through to their staff if they’ve hired so many extra people to help.

“I think one of the things is volume and I test the phone systems myself. I pull up the metrics and look at how long, you know, people are waiting and why are these particular groups of people are holding and whether we have enough of these people answering and all those kinds of things,” Dejoie said. “I think people tend to call at the same time but we stay busy. I would love to be able to say I had 20,000 people that could answer 20,000 phones and really help you but that is just not the case. We don’t have 20-thousand UI experts. We don’t have 20-thousand employees at the agency to be able to do that.”

The secretary says they are doing everything they can and what they’ve been able to pay out this month alone speaks for itself.

“We’ve paid out $328 million to nearly 190,000 citizens so we are paying our citizens and we are responding and working through our backlog,” said Dejoie.

Dejoie says the biggest roadblock keeping folks from their money is fraud. LWC staff showed up a few of the thousands of examples of people they say are trying to cheat and beat the system. They see everything from a license that’s way too big to pictures that are clearly photoshopped. It’s things she says slows things down.

“You don’t want someone else receiving money in your name because someone filed a fraudulent claim and fraud is quite honestly just something that when anything of this size happens and of this magnitude, you’re going to have those bad actors,” said Dejoie.

Because of these types of problems, they have to spend more time carefully reviewing any red flags they come across. It’s more time that unfortunately gets passed on to folks waiting desperately for help.

“Ultimately we’re all paying for these claims and we want to make sure as citizens that we’re helping those citizens who are in need, not those that are scamming the system,” said Dejoie.

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