Paying unemployment benefits in a timely manner, while protecting the Oregon UI Trust Fund, is a core principle of the Oregon Employment Department. Fraudulent claims are an ongoing concern of the department and other UI programs throughout the nation.
That concern was greatly heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic health crisis, due in part to the increased financial incentives for fraudsters. This week, OED is sharing the Unemployment Insurance Fraud - Calendar Year 2020 report.
“The good news is that Oregon has not seen losses on the scale of some other states,” said Lindsi Leahy, unemployment insurance division director.
Fraud occurs when a person intentionally provides false or misleading information to obtain unemployment insurance benefits. During the time of skyrocketing pandemic related workloads, preventing fraud became an even greater challenge for the UI system nationally and in Oregon.
Oregon’s low rate of pandemic era UI fraud compared to some other states is due to the dedication of OED employees who diligently worked to keep up on ever-changing trends in UI fraud and prevent it along with their vigilant efforts to protect Oregon’s UI Trust Fund. Leahy, the Department’s UI division director, serves on the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) Integrity Center steering committee, where fraud prevention is a top priority.
“Fraud remains a significant threat to Oregon’s UI system, but we continue dedicating significant resources and efforts to combat it,” Leahy said.
The figures in the report represent a snapshot in time. OED continues to receive tips and investigate other potential fraud for benefits paid in 2020. This means that report numbers will increase as more cases are confirmed. This data also does not reflect the many fraudulent or ID theft claims that the department caught before any benefits were paid.
During the height of the pandemic, OED declined to answer specific questions about fraud to prevent the disclosure of information that could be used by fraudsters to further scam the system.
“Now that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program has ended and work in the program is winding down, we can publicly share some information about fraud that occurred in calendar year 2020 without creating undue further risk,” Leahy said.
Source: Oregon Employment Department