Created: April 29, 2021 05:46 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The New York State Department of Labor is patting itself on the back for stopping 1.1 million fraudulent unemployment claims worth $12.3 billion but what it won’t say, despite several requests from News10NBC, is how many claims it didn’t stop, how many millions or billions went out the door to scammers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press briefing in Buffalo on Thursday, so News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke traveled there to ask him about unemployment fraud and how it’s now impacting businesses across the state who are seeing huge increases in their unemployment insurance premiums to replenish a depleted fund.
Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC) – Governor, businesses across New York many of who are still trying to recover from the pandemic are now learning that their unemployment insurance premium rates are skyrocketing 100, 200, 300%... This at the same time, the Department of Labor is patting itself on the back for all the fraud they caught. They won’t say however, your administration won’t tell the public how much fraud has gone out the door, how many millions or billions have gone out the door to fraudsters. Is it fair that these businesses now have to refill a fund that may have been depleted by fraudsters?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo – Two points one a little bit of an I told you so, second point, I don’t know I have to check about the increase in the unemployment insurance. In retrospect, in the beginning of COVID, the federal government authorized an unemployment insurance program. I was bombarded every day, there are 4,000 people who are waiting for unemployment insurance checks and they can't get them… one person said they called and they were online for three hours, one person said they went and they've been waiting for two weeks, one person was waiting for three weeks what did I say to you, not to you personally...
Jennifer Lewke – You said it to me personally, you said, we will be back here in a year and you'll tell me, why is there all this fraud... you used that then to explain the delay, so if there was that delay for those folks, the proper checks and balance we assumed, were being made?
Governor Cuomo – No, no, no, no, you can't have it both ways... I said to you last year, what you're going to turn to me next year and say is, “there was fraud in the program,” I said you were gonna say that. You're saying get the check out the door, get the check out the door, get the check out the door, I am saying we have to do checks, we have to do verification. Just because you call up and say you’re unemployed, how do I know that you’re unemployed? You might just be sitting at home and going to work and wanting to claim a second check, I have to verify that and that verification takes time. And the populous, represented by the able press corps, said… get the check out the door, get the check out the door, get the check out the door, I said we’re going to move as fast as we can and then you’re going to come back to me and say, some people got checks that shouldn’t have gotten checks. That is the price of expediting the process and look the fraudsters wind up hurting the good people because you did have good people who just needed the check to pay the rent and weren't conning anyone and then you had some people who were committing fraud. By the way, our level of fraud in the program is much, much lower than most states because we didn't rush it that fast and we did do verification as fast as we could. I don't know about the issue you raised, I don't know about increases to unemployment because of the fraud. I will check, I just don't know about that. And I don’t mean to say you personally…
Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC) – I personally stood here and asked you that but you said “we’ve got to take our time to prevent the fraud” and it seems like the fraud has not been prevented.
Governor Cuomo – Look, it was such a deluge right, we did millions of claims and we did need to do them quickly and if you were going to do full verification on everyone like we normally do, it would’ve taken months to get those checks out. But I don’t know about the increase, I will check.
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