The Mountain State earns a compliment
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that in the last three years, state unemployment compensation programs paid out $180 billion in jobless benefits —almost $19 billion in error.
The study covered only state programs that provide benefits for 26 weeks, and did not include federal Great Recession extensions.
Indiana had the highest error rate — averaging 43 percent over three years. West Virginia ranked 13th.
But it got better.
Last year, according to the Journal, the state ranked fifth lowest among the states with an error rate of 5 percent, or half the national average.
The Mountain State awarded $217.7 million in jobless benefits last year, only $10.9 million of that in error.
But scoring well did not satisfy Russell Fry, acting director of Workforce WV, the state agency that
handles unemployment insurance.
"Any amount of overpayments or fraud is too much," Fry said. "Our goal is no erroneous or fraudulent payments in West Virginia."
There are solid reasons for that focus. Awarding benefits in error means taking more money from corporations, obviously affecting their ability to hire people.
West Virginia has adopted a number of procedures to hold its error rate down.
It requires people to show up in person to file initial claims. State workers explain the rules at the beginning.
The state also links its unemployment compensation database to state and national databases for new hires, flagging people who show up both as getting jobs and as receiving benefits.
In addition, the department randomly selects
a sample of the almost 32,000 people drawing benefits and personally follows up with them.
West Virginia is not perfect. Last week, legislative auditors reported that more than $150,000 in unemployment benefits had been paid to 30 people in a state prison or regional jail.
Fry said Workforce will work with the Division of Corrections to sort that out.
Good government is good management.
Workforce West Virginia is doing its part.