Labor department gets $210K to address PUA fraud

CLAIM FILING ASSISTANCE: Shawn Camacho, left, is assisted by Guam Department of Labor representative Pamela Toves in filling out an application at the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance administration center at Guam Community College in Mangilao, in this July 9 photograph. Post file photo.

A $210,000 grant from the federal government aims to help the Guam Department of Labor prevent and detect fraud and identity theft, issues which have plagued the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programs on Guam and throughout the nation. 

GDOL officials recently noted that in the last couple of months, a growing number of fraudulent claims have been filed - taking time and attention from legitimate claims filed by displaced workers. 

GDOL is batching clean claims through mid August. Fraudulent applications have jumped to 90% of daily claims filed, according to a GDOL press release. 

As of Sept. 18, there are 69,747 initial PUA claims in the department’s online unemployment system, of which more than 20,000 are potential fraud cases, the release states.

GDOL has been working, and will continue to work, with federal, state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute this fraud, the release states. They're also working with banking institutions, to recover identified fraudulent payments.

“This criminal activity puts those with true claims in a state of jeopardy. We are deeply concerned about the well-being of our people who are entitled to these unemployment benefits, but applications become stalled due to this significant surge in unemployment fraud,” said Department of Labor Director David Dell’Isola. “We’ve consistently implemented anti-fraud measures in our hireguam.com application system. This new grant will further enable us to address fraud and identity theft in our programs and protect the rights of our PUA unemployed individuals.”

All states and territories participating in CARES Act authorized unemployment benefit programs, including Guam, must make efforts to proactively prevent and investigate fraudulent activity. It is also the department’s responsibility to establish and recover fraud overpayments and pursue criminal and civil prosecution to deter fraud. We will continue to enforce strategies made available by the U.S.

Fraud has also caused delays in implementing and paying out the new unemployment benefit approved by President Donald Trump.

Guam was recently awarded $22.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a three-week program that will help provide an additional $400 a week of Lost Wages Assistance to PUA claimants receiving at least $100 in unemployment benefits.

“Guam will be liable for any fraudulent or over payments made with this new supplement, making it even more vital to impede unemployment theft,” Dell’Isola said. “More than $26 billion in fraud across the nation has been projected by the Office of the Inspector General who will audit Guam’s unemployment program. It is my and my department’s duty to ensure we have one of the cleanest programs across the nation.”

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