Hundreds of Homeland Security employees were paid unemployment benefits during the pandemic despite being on the job, the department’s inspector general revealed Thursday.
Even worse, some of the unemployment money was actually paid by Homeland Security itself under an emergency unemployment program the Trump administration “hastily” created in 2020, investigators said. That meant the department was making bogus payments to its employees.
The audit identified nearly 2,400 claims from Homeland Security employees and found about 600 of them were clearly eligible. Roughly 900 others were deemed “potentially” ineligible, and the remaining 900 or so were definitely ineligible, the inspector general said.
Some may have been cases of identity fraud, with someone filing a bogus claim in the name of an unsuspecting employee. But other cases appear to be old-fashioned double-dipping.
Nearly three dozen employees even filed unemployment claims from Homeland Security computer systems, suggesting they were on the job at the exact time they were claiming unemployment.
In 366 cases, pay records showed that employees received unemployment benefits even though they were not just working, but also putting in overtime or extra shifts. One employee averaged 147 hours of work per two-week pay period while the department was also paying unemployment.
Sen. Rob Portman, the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he was “alarmed” by the findings.
“If these allegations are correct, those in charge of protecting our homeland were exploiting it for personal gain,” he said.
He asked the Justice Department to pursue action against any employees who were double-dipping.
The inspector general’s report focused on an emergency unemployment program that the Trump administration created at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the summer of 2020.... (Read more)
Submitted 65 days ago