Louisiana Workforce Commission chief faces questions about unemployment payment issues

Louisiana Workforce Commission chief faces questions about unemployment payment issues
Louisiana Workforce Commission (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - Louisiana Workforce Commission Chief Ava Dejoie faced questions about thousands getting jobless benefits they didn’t deserve.

Dejoie says in addition to fraud, she’s dealing with a revolving door of workers.

“We know that asking for additional budget authority is a huge challenge for you all, but we ask that you consider the plight that the agency and our country is in,” says Dejoie.

Dejoie went before the House Appropriations Committee to talk about her budget for the new fiscal year but a lot of the discussion focused on the pandemic’s impact on her agency which oversees jobless claims.

“To date, we have processed or Louisiana citizens have, over 800,000 Louisiana citizens have received unemployment benefits. We’ve processed over a million claims.”

The huge increase in claims is causing some LWC workers to leave.

“And we’ve hired 172 people. As soon as we get folks in the door, there is a revolving door if you will, on that.”

On top of that, the Legislative Auditor says 100,000 people received state unemployment benefits totaling more than $400 million that they weren’t eligible for. A state lawmaker sought answers.

“Real fraud where we have people who are hackers or all these type of people who are defrauding the system, do we have a handle on that? Because that’s really the biggest concern of mine and I think a lot of my colleagues,” says Representative Daryl Deshotel, R- Marksville.

“Well, it is sophisticated criminal enterprises,” replied Dejoie.

“That’s a great term,” responded Deshotel.

“That’s exactly what it is and we stopped two Mondays in November when we noticed 30,000 new claims. We stopped the payment file. Your offices went crazy with people calling, right? You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And then what we then required is for folks to submit a selfie, to submit another form of I.D. All those kinds of things,” says Dejoie.

And other steps are being taken.

“And we are also putting in something called ‘I.D. Me’. A number of other states are using it. It can then detect where the IP address is coming from so we’ll know if someone is in Sri Lanka or Shreveport. That kind of thing. Then if the other thing checks out, your IP address needs to be pinging from the address you’re on,” says Dejoie.

“I’m very surprised we didn’t have that in place already to be honest with you,” says Deshontel.

Dejoie says the system isn’t built for the demands placed on it by the federal Covid relief packages which require extra weekly payments.

“Our system is not broken. It was designed for this,” says Dejoie.

Dejoie says her agency doesn’t have the ability to prosecute so turns cases of suspected fraud over to law enforcement agencies.

Copyright 2021 WVUE. All rights reserved.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Click Here to report it. Please include title of story.