Dept. of Labor focuses on UI fraud, processing claims

The State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has received more than $1 million from the federal government to combat unemployment insurance fraud.

DLIR director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said Friday that the department was awarded $1.215 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to reduce fraud in the state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs.

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“PUA was where we had the majority of fraud in the beginning, since March,” Perreira-Eustaquio said during a livestream Friday. “But we’ve been seeing more and more fraud on our regular unemployment insurance system.”

Perreira-Eustaquio said the DLIR has been able to crack down on cases of impostor fraud — where somebody claims somebody else’s insurance benefits by assuming the identity of the other person — but urged residents to let the DLIR know if they receive notifications about unemployment claims they may not have made.

During the livestream, Perreira-Eustaquio also assured residents that the DLIR is continuing to take on additional staff and resources to get people’s claims processed more quickly, saying the department’s backlog has “decreased drastically.” There are now more than 100 people working at the department’s unemployment call center, she said, with staff dedicated to individual unemployment programs.

As the one-year anniversary of the pandemic lockdown looms, Perreira-Eustaquio said the DLIR will provide extensions for those whose initial 12-month claims are expiring, meaning claimants will not have to reactivate or file a new initial claim.

However, Perreira-Eustaquio also told frustrated claimants to continue to call the unemployment call center for support in processing their claims, rather than go through emails. She said there are currently no immediate plans to reopen in-person services, even as vaccination rates increase, because the department is incapable of managing the crowds that would inevitably result.

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Perreira-Eustaquio also advised claimants to answer their own phones, because many times the department has returned a claimant’s calls only for the claimant to fail to respond.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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