Alabama currently has more than 389,000 cases of potential unemployment fraud awaiting investigation, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

The department has previously said it has blocked the sending of more than $ 5 billion in unemployment benefits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

ADOL said most concerns about unemployment fraud have been with federal programs such as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Fund, or PUA, which have been approved under the CARES 2020 Act because many of the Normal checks and balances were not required for these programs.

At a recent meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s Contract Review Committee, Senator Bill Beasley, D-Clayton, said he had received calls regarding unemployment fraud and requested an update on how the state was handling this problem.

An ADOL representative at the meeting said those problems came to a standstill after the end of pandemic relief programs in June.

The representative said he believed 60,000 to 70,000 cases had already been investigated and that the department was currently working with local district attorneys and the state attorney general’s office to deal with the cases. case.

A million dollar contract was also approved for ADOL at that meeting, which allows services to continue with ASK Telemarketing for another year to provide online or phone support to requesters, whose numbers have grown in 2020.

The ADOL representative explained that while they don’t have to deal with as many unemployment claims as they did at the start of the pandemic, they are still handling a large number of appeals from people appealing their claims that have been delayed.

“It could be a simple thing like changing a personal identification number, as some of these people may or may not receive benefits, but they may still have issues or questions with an appeal that they filed that has not yet been heard, “the representative said at the meeting.

With this new amendment, the contract now stands at $ 4.3 million and will come from state CARES law funds.

Heightened concerns over unemployment fraud are what prompted the legislature to pass a bill during this year’s regular session of Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, which would put into effect certain employment fraud detection practices. existing and new unemployment at ADOL.

Some of the bill’s requirements include weekly checks of Alabama Department of Corrections rosters to ensure inmates are not receiving allowances and the use of a National Association of State Workforce Agencies designed to compare and analyze claims data for enhanced detection of fraud and inappropriate payments. .

This law will come into force on January 1.