A new program administered by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security has returned $10.8 million to the state through seizing money from individuals who fraudulently collected unemployment benefits while working.
This program enables MDES to garnish federal income tax refunds of people who took unemployment benefits despite being employed.
People are not permitted to draw unemployment benefits while also earning a wage. If a person receives unemployment benefits that he or she is not entitled to, the benefits must be repaid to MDES.
Gov. Phil Bryant said this program, which began Jan. 30, is helpful in ensuring the state's dollars are well spent.
"The efforts by MDES will ensure any unemployment benefits go to those who are in need and not those who intentionally abuse it," Bryant said. "I appreciate Executive Director Mark Henry and all of those at MDES who are helping administer this new tracking program."
People are often granted the flexibility to repay the benefits over time, but wages and tax refunds can be garnished if people refuse to make warranted repayments.
MDES recovers fraudulently-obtained benefits through direct repayment, wage garnishment and tax refund garnishment. The most common instance of fraud is a person's deliberate failure to report employment to the agency.
The recovered funds will go to the Unemployment Benefits Trust Fund, which provides benefits to those who are unemployed. This fund can also help hold down unemployment taxes paid by employers.
MDES verifies the records of unemployment recipients against current payroll records submitted by employers. If a person shows up on both lists at once, MDES investigates the situation to determine if the person is earning a wage while also collecting unemployment benefits.