ALBANY, NY- A recent audit suggests that New York’s Labor Department handed out nearly $11-billion worth of unemployment payments improperly during the COVID-19 pandemic and two North Country lawmakers are calling for an investigation.
"The state Comptroller's audit detailing significant issues with the distribution of unemployment payments by the Department of Labor during the coronavirus pandemic is alarming and troubling," Senator Joe Griffo (R-C-I-ROME) said.
"Many New Yorkers, through no fault of their own, relied on these payments to help them and their families get through this public health crisis. Unfortunately, unscrupulous actors have taken advantage of this situation for their own benefit thanks in large part to the failures of the Department of Labor. It is imperative that we get answers from the department so that we can ensure that this situation does not occur again in the future."
"The taxpayers of New York deserve to know that their money is safe and being used appropriately," Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-C-MARCY) said.
Marianne Buttenschon image.
"While we all know the pandemic created unprecedented demand on our systems and agencies, we need to work to discover what failed and how to rectify it going forward."
The audit suggests that the Department of Labor failed to replace its long-troubled Unemployment Insurance system and ad hoc workarounds to compensate for the old system.
This weakened oversight and ultimately contributed to an estimated billions of dollars in improper payments during the pandemic.
The Department of Labor also reportedly refused to provide auditors with the data that would have enabled auditors to calculate the precise amount of improper payments and was slow to provide requested information that delayed the completion of the audit, according to the Comptroller's Office.
Headline image courtesy via the office of New York State Senator Joe Griffo.