Gov. Pete Ricketts says his administration has taken steps to insure inmates no longer receive unemployment checks.
Ricketts says the discovery that 180 inmates received $156,000 in unemployment checks is an example of his administration is doing a better job of working together as agencies. Ricketts says cooperation between the Department of Correctional Services and the Department of Labor uncovered the violation of state law.
Many of those incarcerated who received unemployment compensation were locked up in county jails. One inmate received $4,300 in unemployment benefits.
Ricketts says recent changes in unemployment compensation should insure it doesn’t happen again.
“We made the announcement last week with regard to requiring folks on unemployment to work with a coach. So, again, if you have to do that to be able to collect on claims, that’s one of the ways that we’ll be able to prevent people who are in our corrections system from being able to collect,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Earlier this month, Ricketts announced the Department of Labor will launch a new reemployment system aimed at helping the unemployed find jobs. The program will require nearly everyone receiving an unemployment check to enroll in an individualized reemployment plan to remain eligible for benefits. It is partially funded with federal money. It begins in October.
Ricketts says he has full confidence that Corrections Director Scott Frakes and Labor Director John Albin will address the problem of incarcerated individuals receiving unemployment benefits illegally.
The Nebraska Department of Labor says the inmates got the jobless benefits, because it had no reliable way to determine checks were going to people who were incarcerated. Officials recently have development a computer program to cross-check applicants for unemployment benefits.
A new interagency effort has begun to crack down on fraudulent unemployment claims involving the Nebraska Crime Commission as well as the Departments of Corrections and Labor. The effort plans to prosecute those involve and seek restitution.
State Labor officials say they have begun the process of recovering the fraudulent claims, both the unemployment checks distributed, plus a 15% penalty.
How the inmates received the checks remains somewhat of a mystery. Some used friends and family to file claims. Some inmates might have file for unemployment checks directly from jail.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]