Lawmakers Consider Unemployment Fraud Unit

8:36 PM, Jan 31, 2012   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Some state lawmakers say they want to crack down on unemployment benefits fraud.

New legislation would create an investigative unit at the Department of Employment and Workforce to look into both employees and employers looking to cheat the system.

"The US Department of Labor said that we lost roughly $80 million in unemployment benefits last year alone to fraud. So it becomes a critically important issue," said sponsor Rep. Bill Sandifer, an Oconee County Republican.

The proposal would also increase fines and penalties for those found guilty of fraud.

It could lead to jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. The punishments increase with the number of offenses.

But everyone's not sold on the bill just yet. Many legislators requested to debate the bill saying they still had questions about it.

"We want to make sure that individuals are not restricted from being able to making a living and not making it difficult for a person to receive the benefits when they deserve the benefits," said Rep. Leon Howard, a Richland County Democrat. "Certainly we're not in favor of any fraud, we're not in favor of people doing the wrong thing, but let's not make it difficult in the tough economy who are already struggling, facing tough times."

The bill will come up for debate in the House.

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