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Audit: Wisconsin unemployment office overpaid millions multiple times

The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s Legislative Audit Bureau this month uncovered evidence the state’s Department of Workforce Development overpaid unemployment benefits, likely more than once, back in April.

“In addition to the reported overpayments on April 29, our review of available information indicates DWD likely overpaid program benefits on April 28. This information indicates that DWD may have overpaid an estimated $21.2 million in program benefits over this two-day period,” the report states. “However, DWD may have overpaid additional amounts.”

The Audit Bureau added that DWD has not tried to recoup all of the money it mistakenly distributed.

“To date, DWD has appropriately focused on paying program benefits to unemployed individuals and has not attempted to recover all overpayments it likely made on April 28 and April 29. DWD provided us information indicating that it recovered $19.6 million in duplicate payments it made on April 29,” the audit stated.

“Actions taken by DWD on April 30 may have also resulted in DWD overpaying and underpaying unknown numbers of individuals,” the auditors found.

DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman acknowledged the audit, but not the overpayments or unrecovered money.

“I thank the Legislative Audit Bureau for their analysis of the [unemployment]  program, which has expanded greatly with the addition of three federal programs in a little more than three months,” Frostman said in a statement. “With over $2.59 billion in benefits paid to approximately 433,000 claimants, our staff has worked diligently to get much needed benefits to Wisconsinites who are out of work due to the pandemic, while also constantly looking for ways to improve program administration.”

The overpayments are not the only problem for DWD.

More than 140,000 people continue to linger in a months-long backlog to have their unemployment claims reviewed. Frostman has said in the past it could be October before everyone in that backlog will be reviewed.

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