Ala. among states accused of overpaying unemployment benefits

ADIR Director Tom Surtees
ADIR Director Tom Surtees

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama is one of a host of states that has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits to individuals who may not have been eligible to receive them.

The US Department of Labor released statistics from each state showing how much unemployment benefits they paid during the year starting in June 2010 and ending in July 2011.

According to the figures, Alabama paid out $423,477,364 in total benefits during that period of time, the 28th most total benefits nationwide.

Though it didn't pay out the near the top of the list, on percentage it ranked high. Alabama paid out 25% of all benefits in error, the third highest rate in the country.

The report presented makes it difficult to compare states directly since no two states have the same standards for issuing or applying for unemployment benefits. According to the figures, Indiana paid out the highest percentage of unemployment benefits in error at 59% of all claims. Louisiana paid the second highest of unemployment benefits at 31%.

Alabama's Director of the Department of Industrial Relations Tom Surtees says he has been aware of the problem. He contends that the reason for the payments is the lack of information.

"The employer and the employee" Surtees said are crucial he said for making sure benefits go to the correct people and who deserve them. "They're the two entities that have the data and we are doing everything we can to make sure we have the information and without that information we're not going to make any good decisions."

Surtees says there are many instances when the department is able to get in contact with a claimant but not his or her most recent employer or vice-versa. Surtees stressed that without all of the proper information the department can only use information from the claimant in issuing benefits.

"In those instances, we generally give them benefits" Surtees said.

The numbers were released in the wake of President Barack Obama's jobs push. Part of his initiative is to reduce government waste and the administration released the figures as a prime example of ongoing spending that needs to be cut down.

Copyright 2011 WSFA. All rights reserved.