DES MOINES — A report from State Auditor Rob Sand shows about $240,000 worth of state unemployment checks were written to prisoners and dead people in the early months of the pandemic.
Iowa Workforce Development officials say the agency saw an unprecedented spike in unemployment claims between March and June of 2020 and had to process five times as many claims as it normally did. Sand says hiring more staff to process those claims would have helped.
“No doubt the Iowa Workforce Development was pretty slammed during the pandemic,” Sand says. “They’ve got only so many people over there, but that certainly begs the question that why, if they were so busy over there, they didn’t use a portion of the surplus to hire additional staffers.”
Sand’s review found the agency shifted investigators over to answering phones and helping Iowans file unemployment claims and that led to a delay in cross-checking some death records. The review found that in the spring of 2020, Iowa Workforce Development issued unemployment benefits for six people who were dead.
“Oftentimes these Social Security numbers of deceased individuals are used by fraudsters to try to get unemployment benefits,” Sand says.
Sand says the Iowa Workforce Development agency did not cross-check the Social Security numbers on unemployment claims with a list of prison inmates and wound up cutting unemployment checks for eight prisoners. Starting in February of 2021, the agency began doing those cross-checks monthly.