Mississippi wrongly paid out almost $118 million in unemployment claims: auditor

Mississippi wrongly paid out almost $118 million in unemployment claims: auditor

Reporting on deep red states like Mississippi often describes efforts by Republican lawmakers to make life more difficult for the poor in their states. But according to Mississippi State Auditor's Office, the state wrongly paid out almost $118 million in unemployment claims during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, in an official statement, said, "It's more important than ever to understand the mistakes that were made when money was flowing so freely during COVID."

According to Lee O. Sanderlin, a reporter for the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, "Of the incorrect payments, some were cases of stolen identity, some were part of international unemployment fraud schemes, some went to people who never lost their jobs, and others went to people who were in jail, the report says…. The Department of Employment Security cannot yet determine how much unemployment money was given to fraudsters and how much was incorrectly paid to people who made mistakes filing for benefits, according to Stephanie Palmertree, director of finance and compliance for the Mississippi State Auditor's Office."

Sanderlin reports that the Mississippi State Auditor's Office "suggests many of the wrong payments went undetected by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, or MDES, because its staff were overwhelmed by the sheer number of unemployment claims filed at the pandemic's start."

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