Although headlines are focusing on the thousands of Americans that are losing, or have lost their unemployment benefits, the U.S. Labor Department is reporting over $7 billion in overpayment to the unemployed. As this story from ABC News explains, the total amount of unemployment benefits paid in 2009 was $76.8 billion, compared to $41.6 billion in 2008.
Fraud accounted for $1.55 billion in estimated overpayments last year, while errors by state agencies were blamed for $2.27 billion, according to the Labor Department. The department's final report will be released next month.
Some of the overpayments likely can be traced back to the overwhelming workloads facing state employment agencies during the recession, said George Wentworth, a policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project.
"You've got a system that's been under siege like the unemployment insurance system has been for the last two years," Wentworth said. "You've got a lot of new staff coming into the system; there's been a lot of federal extensions [to unemployment insurance benefits] that have had to be programmed in and so on. There's just been a lot of change that states have had to handle. ... I just think the volume and the new staff have made the systems more susceptible to error."