The Pennsylvania Treasury provided an update before the House Labor & Industry Committee regarding unemployment compensation (UC) benefit payments and fraud mitigation. Pennsylvania is one of at least eight states responding to a fraud scheme targeting the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, designed for those who are self-employed or individuals with limited work history who lost work due to the pandemic.
As a result of Treasury’s internal efforts, anti-fraud measures at U.S. Bank, and the honesty of Pennsylvanians who have reported fraudulent payments, Treasury has identified 17,259 instances of fraudulent payments and has recovered more than $75.6 million in benefits.
“The criminals behind these attacks are taking advantage of Pennsylvanians who are in dire need of funds. At Treasury, we’re doing everything we can to thwart fraud when we see it, and serve as many people as possible. I’m thankful for the many honest Pennsylvanians who have reported fraud in the past three months, and I encourage anyone who receives a mailing or benefit payment that they did not apply for to do the same.”
Pennsylvania State Treasurer, Joe Torsella
In addition, Treasury has made many adjustments to its normal operations to accommodate the extraordinary increase in volume of unemployment compensation benefits, to include:
- almost doubling our staff dedicated to UC Disbursements (UCD), from 13 to 25 employees,
- doubling the call capacity for the UCD phone lines,
- almost tripling our capacity to process and print checks through innovations and modifications on existing equipment and
- increasing the volume of mail processed by 150%.
All of these significant improvements were made without bringing on new staff or purchasing new equipment, but rather by cross-training employees, increasing efficiency, and upgrading information technology solutions.
When the fraud scheme was initially detected at the end of May, Treasury immediately halted all electronic payments, at the request of the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) and began issuing all PUA benefits by physical check. Soon after, Treasury resumed payments to U.S. Bank ReliaCard and transitioned all PUA claimants to ReliaCard as their default payment option. These moves ensured benefits were being delivered to home addresses, rather than private bank accounts.
Due to this fraud scheme, the default method of payment for all PUA recipients will continue to be the U.S. Bank ReliaCard. Physical checks may be requested, but will add 6-9 days of processing and mail delivery time to the claim. Direct deposit is not available for the PUA program.
Both Treasury and the Department of Labor & Industry are working with law enforcement, who is investigating this fraud scheme.