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LWC secretary responds after audit shows they paid $1M in benefits to dead people

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 7:54 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The head of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Ava Cates, is responding to an audit one day after it revealed workers within the agency paid about $1 million in unemployment benefits to hundreds of dead people. The agency was once again thrust under the microscope this week and even has members of the Louisiana Congressional delegation weighing in.

“They had to go from zero to 60 in about three seconds so I’m not surprised they had problems,” said Senator John Kennedy. “I mean nobody wants to see a dollar wasted. No person that I’m aware of supports taking hard-earned taxpayer dollars and paying them to dead people and often times when you pay them to dead people, the checks get cashed.”

Of the improper payments made to those who are no longer with us, auditors pointed out more than $120,000 in payments could have been stopped if the folks at LWC had checked the death data from the Louisiana Department of Health weekly instead of every month.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the secretary if it is something they plan to address going forward.

“Yes. It will be something that we’re changing,” Cates responded.

Secretary Cates says more than $600,000 of the money that slipped through the cracks was out of their control. Auditors agree that was something they could not prevent. The secretary says they are learning every day and this is another one of those pandemic lessons that are shaping the agency going forward.

“We have lots of lessons learned,” said Cates. “The audit experience is not something that I think anyone enjoys but it does help you to say what could I do differently if I’m not out of the situation. The game is over...how can I look at the game film?”

Looking at that game files, Cates points out the plays they got right. The secretary says while some of that money got into the wrong hands, the majority of it did not. Workers were able to catch 7,000 fraud attempts and shut them down before the money was paid out. It’s something she says her workers deserve credit for because, for the most part, they got it right.

“So, that $120,000 represents 0.0006 percent. So, we have a 99.99 percent rate of successful implementation of the system. So, I think that speaks well to what we were able to do,” Cates added.

The secretary says the real blame also falls on those who are doing everything they can to try and take advantage of the system.

“I would wish that people wouldn’t take advantage of someone’s suffering and the loss of a loved one to steal someone’s identity and file a claim for some that are deceased and using it for nefarious intent,” said Cates.

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