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Capitol Access is an online column by Jacob Kauffman. His column aims to give people unique insights into the Arkansas legislative session.

Right and Left Tackle Unemployment Fraud


Right and Left Tackle Unemployment Fraud

Yesterday was a long day over at the Capitol. Both chambers abandoned most of their schedules and adjourned early to take a walk across the Capitol grounds to listen to several hours of committee arguments regarding the Big River Steel Mill.

But the Senate did manage to squeeze in a little work.

It was a good day for Senator Missy Irvin (R) of Mountain View. Irvin sponsored SB 542, a bill addressing unemployment insurance fraud. The bill was crafted with support from a wide array of political leanings. Senator Irvin touted the endorsements of the Department of Workforce Services and the AFL-CIO.

According to Senator Irvin, as the law currently stands, an individual who knowingly commits unemployment insurance fraud only faces a penalty of a 50% reduction rate in actual eligible benefits.

I asked Senator Irvin why the Department of Workforce Services had previously requested a 50% reduction. She answered, “the response from DWS was it has been there before anyone at DWS was there and they really don't know why it was written that way.”

SB 542 serves to immediately, and completely, terminate benefits if there is evidence of fraud. The claimant has the option of an appeals process.

Although this bill creates a stricter penalty on the front end, it also reduces the amount of time a person is prohibited from applying for benefits in the future from 5 years to 2.5 years.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that unemployment insurance fraud has hovered around 6% for the past three years. Fraud cost the state about $11 million from 2010-2011 of which $3,391,801 was recovered.

The bill passed the Senate 34-0 and has been sent to the House.