GDOL awarded $210K to address PUA fraud

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The Guam Department of Labor has received a $210K grant from the federal
government to assist with efforts to prevent and detect fraud and identity theft in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Unemployment benefits fraud has impacted the entire island. As of Sept. 18, there are 69,747 initial PUA claims in the department’s online unemployment system, of which more than 20,000 are potential fraud cases. Currently we are batching clean claims through mid August, and fraudulent applications have jumped to 90% of daily claims filed.

The Labor Department will continue to work diligently with federal, state, and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute this fraud. In collaboration with banking institutions, we will also work to recover identified fraudulent payments.

“This criminal activity puts those with true claims in a state of jeopardy. We are deeply concerned about the well-being of our people who are entitled to these unemployment benefits, but applications become stalled due to this significant surge in unemployment fraud,” said Department of Labor Director David Dell’Isola. “We’ve consistently implemented anti-fraud measures in our hireguam.com application system. This new grant will further enable us to address fraud and identity theft in our programs and
protect the rights of our PUA unemployed individuals.”

All states and territories participating in CARES Act authorized unemployment benefit programs, including Guam, must make efforts to proactively prevent and investigate fraudulent activity. It is also the department’s responsibility to establish and recover fraud overpayments and pursue criminal and civil prosecution to deter fraud. We will continue to enforce strategies made available by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Unceasing effort is critical as fraud can occur at any point during the continued
application.

Fraud has also caused delays in implementing and paying out the new unemployment benefit approved by President Donald Trump. Guam was recently awarded $22.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a three-week program that will help provide an additional $400 a week of Lost Wages Assistance to PUA claimants receiving at least $100 in unemployment benefits.

“Guam will be liable for any fraudulent or overpayments made with this new supplement, making it even more vital to impede unemployment theft,” Dell’Isola said. “More than $26 billion in fraud across the nation has been projected by the Office of the Inspector General who will audit Guam’s unemployment program. It is my and my department’s duty to ensure we have one of the cleanest programs across the nation.”

(GDOL News Release)

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