DEO Press Releases

Florida Recovers More Than $25 Million In Reemployment Assistance Fraud And Overpayments

Jun 25, 2013
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RICK SCOTT
Governor 


Contact: DEO Communications
850.617.5600
 JESSE PANUCCIO
Director


TALLAHASSEE - Today, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced that it has recovered more than $25 million in fraudulent or overpaid Reemployment Assistance funds. From January to April 2013, DEO recovered $9,798,577 through various means including collections and claimant repayments; and $19,832,118 from the Treasury Offset Program, which includes fraudulent cases.

“The Reemployment Assistance Program is intended to provide Floridians a financial bridge to their next job and assist those who are out of work through no fault of their own,” said DEO Executive Director Jesse Panuccio. “The dedicated staff of DEO is working hard to uncover fraud and ensure that the Reemployment Assistance program is transparent, accountable, and efficient. Fraud severely damages the program’s integrity and limits assistance to our citizens that are truly in need of Reemployment Assistance until they find a job.”

Reemployment Assistance Fraud is any false statement or failure to disclose a material fact, knowingly made for the purpose of obtaining or preventing payment of benefits contrary to the provisions of the Reemployment Assistance law. For example, fraud includes intentionally not reporting wages that have been earned, intentionally under-reporting earnings, or misrepresenting the reason for job separation.

Reemployment Assistance Fraud is a third degree felony and each offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 fine. When a fraud determination is issued, in addition to being required to repay the overpayment along with a penalty of 15 percent of the amount overpaid, the claimant is disqualified from receiving future benefits (a disqualification can be imposed on a week-by-week basis up to a one-year period), and the claimant’s case may be referred to the State Attorney for prosecution. State Attorneys may charge the claimant with grand theft or a misdemeanor. Prosecution and conviction of Reemployment Assistance Fraud may result in the claimant being required to serve jail time, make restitution, be placed on probation or some type of pretrial intervention, and serve community hours.

Nonfraud overpayments may be the result of a misunderstanding, technical error, redetermination, adjudication, appeals decision, Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission order, and/or court decision, or other mitigating circumstances. For example, a nonfraud overpayment might be created because a claimant failed to report wages not understanding that wages were to be reported when earned, not when paid; or if an individual failed to report gross earnings instead of net.

On October 21, 2011, Congress enacted the Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011 that required state unemployment compensation laws to provide a penalty of 15 percent on benefits determined to have been fraudulently obtained. In addition, the law required all penalty assessments that were recovered to be deposited directly into the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.

The Treasury Offset Program is a centralized offset program, administered by the United States Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service's Debt Management Services, to collect delinquent debts owed to federal agencies and states (including past-due child support), in accordance with federal law.

Florida has one of the oldest unemployment systems in the country, paying out approximately $2.8 billion in calendar year (CY) 2012. At the height of the recession during CYs 2009 and 2010, the state paid out an estimated $6.5 billion and $7.1 billion in Reemployment Assistance payments, respectively. 

To report fraud or overpayment through the Reemployment Assistance program, please call the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Fraud Hotline at 1-800-342-9909.

About DEO

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity combines the state’s economic, workforce and community development efforts.  This new approach helps expedite economic development projects to fuel job creation in competitive communities.  For more information, including valuable resources for employers and job seekers, please visit www.floridajobs.org.

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