Report Shows Improper Payment of TN Unemployment Benefits - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Report Shows Improper Payment of TN Unemployment Benefits

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Unemployment remains high this holiday season, but a new report is raising concerns about oversight, and whether some are "gaming the system."

A Department of Labor study found that Tennessee is one of the worst states, when it comes to oversight on those getting unemployment benefits. In fact, Tennessee tied with Mississippi for the 11th worst in the nation.

In the study, analysts found an improper payment rate of nearly 15 percent. That's the percentage of people who received benefits improperly or unlawfully.

That comes out to overpayments of more than $300 million spanning the past three years. The state official overseeing Tennessee's unemployment benefits says the term "improper payment" is misleading.

"That does not mean it was an overpayment, or the individual was not necessarily eligible for unemployment.  It just means there was something missing in the process," said Don Ingram with the Tennessee Department of Labor.

Tennessee Employment Security Administrator Don Ingram says a computer glitch caused many of the improper payment issues, but it has been fixed. Ingram showed NewsChannel 5 a report by a special task force to address the government's concerns. The task force addressed a criticism that Tennessee only tracks 10 percent of people receiving unemployment benefits.

Ingram says part of the problem was the high number of new applicants, following the crash in 2008.

"We went from 30,000 individuals on unemployment per week to a high of 180,000 individuals on unemployment."

"To require individuals to come into a career center one on one would just not be feasible based on the staff that we have," Ingram explained.

Ingram says Tennessee law does not require the state to track people, but that is going to change. He says the state has applied for a federal grant to improve job service registration.


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