State on lookout for unemployment fraud claims

By PAUL DeMARCO | Guest Columnist

Note: This is an opinion column.

Just four months ago, Alabama enjoyed some of its lowest unemployment in state history with all sectors of the economy strong.

Fast forward to April  and the number of those without jobs due in large part to the coronavirus, was at 12.9 percent. This is the highest number of unemployed in 38 years. The Alabama Department of Labor reported that nearly 217,000 individuals lost their jobs from March to April, with a total of 283,787 without work statewide.

While state businesses have slowly opened and many people have returned to work, the number of those filing for unemployment compensation remains high, particularly since the funds are supplemented by federal dollars.

Yet, the state has to be vigilant regarding unemployment fraud claims. A number of states across the Nation, including Alabama, have been reporting crime rings and individuals committing fraud to collect unemployment benefits based on the COVID-19 crisis.

Alabama increased its penalty for unemployment fraud in 2012 after the state was regularly losing millions of dollars from those defrauding the system. Criminals who would steal vital resources that are meant for fellow Alabamians who are suffering the economic impact of this crisis should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Now more than ever with those who legitimately have lost employment due to the pandemic, the state needs to catch and prosecute those who attempt to cheat the system.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.