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Report finds numerous unemployment compensation-related errors in Iowa amid 2020 pandemic

DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) – A new report from State Auditor Rob Sand says a lack of policies and procedures led Iowa Workforce Development to make numerous errors during the fiscal year ending in June 2020, amid the pandemic and a rise in unemployment claims.

That includes overpaying unemployment compensation to people ineligible to receive compensation because they were either incarcerated or dead, along with failures to detect and correct documentation errors.

The overpayments of unemployment compensation included $113,000 to eight prisoners, and $124,000 to claimants who were deceased.

Sand’s report recommended corrective actions that would prevent compensation going to people who are ineligible because they are incarcerated or they are using a dead person’s social security number. IWD said it has already begun implementing policies and procedures to prevent that in the future.

The report included a statement from IWD detailing the unprecedented situation it dealt with amid the pandemic in 2020.

Iowa Workforce Development said it received an unparalleled number of unemployment claims and customer service calls between March and June 2020. Claims went from about 125,000 a month before the pandemic, to about 600,000 claims a month.

IWD said it began an “all hands-on deck” approach to staffing assignments to process this unprecedented number of claims and customer service requests.

IWD’s Unemployment Insurance division staff went from 139 employees to more than 475 overnight. They also hired more than 250 temporary employees and added 55 volunteers from other agencies. Staff also increased workdays to 10-hours on weekdays and added an 8-hour workday on Saturdays in the middle of March.

“We do not anticipate that the issues that lead to the finding in this audit report, in this particular period of time, will ever arise again,” IWD wrote in a response to the report. “But if it should, we have the experiences, resources and processes in place to quickly address them as needed.”

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