When a criminal steals something from a store – let’s say an expensive piece of jewelry – he or she usually is required to provide restitution (i.e., give the item back) and receive a punishment, such as a heavy fine and/or jail time. That’s society’s way of saying the act was wrong and providing a deterrent for future criminal acts. Why should this process be any different if someone steals something from the government? If anything, shouldn’t it be even stricter? After all, the criminal has stolen not just from one entity, but from all taxpayers. Thankfully, the Nebraska Department of Labor is now fining people who deliberately misreport information in an attempt to collect unemployment benefits.

According to Omaha World-Herald, the Nebraska Department of Labor began charging a 15 percent fine on October 1 to combat unemployment fraud. In its first month, officials reported they had collected $27,000 from 278 cases of fraud. Moving forward, they expect to bring in an extra $200,000 to $250,000 per year from collected fines. The newly imposed penalties are intended to send a message that committing fraud in the state of Nebraska will have consequences.

Nebraska’s unemployment fraud rate of one percent is relatively low in comparison to the national average – 2.9 percent. The state reports an estimated 98 percent of all overpayments are detected, and the department still has new detection methods to test out.

Kudos to Nebraska for 1) such a low rate of unemployment fraud in the first place, 2) its efforts to test new methods to prevent its existing fraud, and 3) its willingness to stand up to fraudsters and send a message.  Hopefully, potential unemployment fraudsters in Nebraska hear the message loud and clear.

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