photo courtesy of News Mississippi

“We will continue to point out where your [money] has been lost and demand better results,” White said.

In June, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White’s office released their annual audit and discovered $117 million in improper unemployment payments made by Mississippi’s Department of Employment Security (MDES) between the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and June 2020.

“Nearly every state I’ve talked to around the country lost millions of dollars to fraud out of their unemployment funds. Mississippi was no exception,” Auditor Shad White said. “The federal government and state governments around the country do not need to repeat those mistakes the next time we have a recession. I hope this audit and those like it in other states are used to fix anti-fraud controls and prevent this kind of massive loss from happening in the future.”

In a Twitter post on Monday, White referenced an article from the Inter-Mountain about West Virginia lawmakers learning about how much unemployment compensation was fraudulently paid during 2020. West Virginia paid around $83 million in fraudulent unemployment claims last year.

“We found the same when we audited Mississippi’s unemployment fund,” Auditor White said. “We will continue to point out where your [money] has been lost and demand better results.”

In the yearly audit of state agencies report released over the summer, the State Auditor’s Office said that their findings matched those at other employment agencies in several other states. California identified $11 billion in unemployment overpayments and Washington’s report called their unemployment overpayments the “largest known theft of public money in that state’s history.”

“This excellent report shows it’s more important than ever to understand the mistakes that were made when money was flowing so freely during COVID,” White said.

According to Logan Reeves with the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor, since their office identified the misspent unemployment funds, they and MDES “have been working with our state and federal partners to recover these funds on behalf of taxpayers.”

All unemployment overpayments made by MDES after June 30, 2020, will appear in next year’s audit report.