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Fraud investigations delaying unemployment payments in Louisiana

The state Workforce Commission said more than 32,000 new unemployment claims were filed within recent weeks.

NEW ORLEANS — A debit card from the Louisiana Workforce Commission recently wound up in Rubye Forestier's mailbox, but she's not sure why.

It wasn't addressed to her. And the person to whom it's addressed?

“We knew the previous owners of this house. They had one child, and that wasn't her name,” she said.

Forestier, who is retired, said she did not file for unemployment, and she said she's not the only one on her street who's received the card meant for unemployment payments.

Jessie Franklin did file for unemployment.

She lost her job and her home thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, and she's packed up her family a number of times in recent months, moving from Addis, to Baton Rouge to Iberville Parish and now Moreauville, about an hour outside of Alexandria.

Things were bad enough, then her unemployment payments suddenly stopped.

“I just want to know what is going on with my case,” she said.

Franklin assumes that's due to a surge in possibly fraudulent cases the Louisiana Workforce Commission has to investigate, but she's not sure. She said she can't get anyone on the phone and her emails have gone unanswered.

“I just need some kind of communication,” she said.

The state Workforce Commission said more than 32,000 new unemployment claims were filed within recent weeks, and they've had to stop payments to more than 160,000 people -- a number that climbs daily.

Ava Dejoie, secretary of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, said verification processes have become more difficult during the pandemic.

“Normally we do state unemployment insurance,” she said. “Right now, we're doing seven different types of unemployment insurance.”

That has led to delays for some people who desperately need their unemployment payments who must now prove they are who they say they are and that their need is real.

Forestier said she feels for the people left in the lurch as the Workforce Commission tries to stop fraudulent cases from moving forward.

“They're taking money away from people who truly need it,” she said. 

RELATED: As Senate proposes new stimulus bill, Louisiana's unemployed fear they're running out of time

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