Unemployment benefits are intended to provide temporary financial assistance to people who are eligible to work, but have lost their job through no fault of their own. Beneficiaries of this program are usually American citizens, but non-permanent residents who have lost their jobs can also collect unemployment benefits if they are authorized to work in the United States. A story posted on TheDay.com reports that a woman, who last resided in New London, was recently charged with allegedly collecting more than $39,000 in unemployment benefits for which she did not qualify.

The article states that the Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney opened an investigation on the 33 year-old woman after receiving a complaint from the Connecticut Department of Labor. The arrest warrant affidavit states that the woman claimed she was a U.S. citizen in order to collect unemployment compensation. But the state asserts she was not legally authorized to work in the United States.

In order for U.S. citizens to file an unemployment claim, a Social Security number must be provided. For non-residents working in the country, an alien resident number or visa or passport information is required to file for the benefits.

The case is being prosecuted by the Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit – a partnership between the Division of Criminal Justice and the Department of Labor. The prosecution is being financed by the U.S. Department of Labor. (It would be a lot cheaper to have a better vetting process for unemployment benefit applicants to prevent fraud before it occurs.)

It is important to note that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. She deserves her day in court.
Even so, the case provides a good reminder for us: unemployment benefits are for those people who are ready, willing and able to work, not fraudsters who are eager to scam the government and take what is not theirs.

  1. How this could be prevented:
    While state laws regarding Unemployment Insurance (UI) vary, this is a Federal program, and employment history and wages earned are verfified by Social Security Administration. Generally, your entitlement and benefit amount are determined by your earnings, going back three quarters (nine months) from the day employment ended. If you can’t establish that you worked and how much you made, you shouldn’t get UI benefits.
    If employers comply with Federal law and have all employees complete Form I-9 and provide proof of identity and work authorization documents, including a Social Security number, wages and UI entitlement should be easily verified. However, if an individual provides a fictitious employer and address, the UI office won’t receive a reply to their request to the employer for wage information and verification of the length of the claimed employment. Benefits may begin before SSA responds.
    In this case, the false claim to US Citizenship is a serious and deportable offense for an immigrant, whether documented as legally present or not documented. The offense should be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) so that parallel removal proceedings can be considered.

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