MADISON — What has Gov. Tony Evers done to prevent unemployment fraud over the run of the pandemic?
Wisconsin’s Republican congressional delegation wants to know.
The question is even more critical following recent reports that as much as $400 billion — half of the federal unemployment funding — may have been stolen by criminals and foreign enemies.
The lawmakers in a letter are calling on Evers to publicize how many fraudulent claims were made by the state of Wisconsin, what detection services he put into place, and whether he’s found that those detection services reduced fraud.
“Given multiple federal agencies issued warnings to states about ongoing efforts to steal these benefits, Governor Evers needs to immediately clarify how many payments may have been fraudulently made and what steps his administration took to ensure these dollars got into the right hands,” U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Allouez) said in a press release. “Wisconsin taxpayers deserve full transparency on whether their hard-earned income went to criminals.”
A report last month from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy (CROWE) found Wisconsin was one of the worst performing states in unemployment insurance fraud prevention.
Evers’ Department of Workforce Development has effectively “stopped detecting fraud,” according to the study, “The (Poor) Performance of the Unemployment System During COVID-19 in the United States and (Especially) Wisconsin”
Pre-pandemic, the fraud detection rate was about.7 percent in Wisconsin, according to the study. Since the onset of the pandemic, the detection rates have dropped to near zero.
“We’ve now seen estimates of hundreds of billions of dollars in fraud related to federal unemployment assistance. Wisconsin taxpayers cannot be on the hook financing foreign actors’ activities at home and abroad,” said Sen. Ron Johnson. “We urge Governor Evers to protect our national security and be vigilant in ensuring these funds are not getting into the hands of criminals.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) noted Evers’ stubborn refusal to end the $300 in federal unemployment bonus payments, a decision that has made “jobless benefits more lucrative than full-time work.”
“From his job-killing lockdowns and failure to get unemployment assistance into the hands of those who needed it most last year, Governor Evers’ pandemic response has been among the worst in the entire country,” Tiffany said. “Now we’ve learned that hundreds of billions in taxpayer funds have found their way into the pockets of criminal organizations and foreign scammers. Given this record of incompetence, Wisconsin taxpayers deserve to know what safeguards – if any – were put in place by this administration to protect Wisconsin taxpayers against widespread fraud and abuse,”
Read the lawmakers’ letter to the governor here.