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D.C. might be paying unemployment to ineligible residents

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Photo - The D.C. Department of Employment Services holds a Project Empowerment workshop. The agency may be letting ineligible residents receive unemployment benefits, the District's inspector general found. (File photo)
The D.C. Department of Employment Services holds a Project Empowerment workshop. The agency may be letting ineligible residents receive unemployment benefits, the District's inspector general found. (File photo)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District's inspector general is warning that flawed verification processes at the D.C. Department of Employment Services may be allowing the city to pay unemployment benefits to ineligible residents.

"[The department] lacks an adequate quality assurance mechanism to ensure that all required verifications, whether done manually or by automation, are conducted and all results are recorded prior to issuing initial unemployment benefits," Inspector General Charles Willoughby wrote in a report released this month. "Because of these deficiencies, ineligible claimants may be receiving unemployment benefits."

Although investigators said the agency was sufficiently verifying some information, such as an applicant's monetary eligibility, the inspector general said that the department has "significant deficiencies" in its process to review why applicants are unemployed.

Willoughby also wrote that the agency did not document the immigration statuses of applicants or "adequately" conduct checks to make sure applicants weren't receiving benefits from other states.

A spokesman for the Department of Employment Services did not respond to a request for comment, though the agency said in its response to the inspector general that it agreed with his findings and recommendations.

Willoughby's top concern was whether the agency properly reviewed applications from people who said they were jobless for reasons other than a layoff.

More than two in five cases that investigators examined warranted further review by DOES, the report said, but the inspector general found that the agency's fact-finding efforts were "inadequate" in 46 percent of examined cases.

Investigators blamed several factors, including a lack of clear, standard procedures and the "inadequate analytical skills" of reviewers.

Willoughby said that verifications proceeded appropriately when they were totally automated.

The concerns the inspector general outlined are not the first to surface this year about the District's unemployment benefits program.

Earlier this year, city officials acknowledged that hundreds of District employees accepted unemployment benefits while on the District's payroll. Last month, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan filed civil lawsuits against 13 of those workers to try to recoup the city's cash.

Nathan has said some of the employees could face criminal prosecution.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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