Yesterday, Governor Walker signed Assembly Bill 710, a bill authored by Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem Lakes) that creates criminal penalties for Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud.
“What started with constituents calling for assistance because they were having trouble filing their UI claims, progressed into an audit of the initial claims processing for Unemployment Insurance benefits,” said Rep. Samantha Kerkman who co-chairs the committee that assigned the audit. “What we did not anticipate discovering was that there are a small percentage of individuals who account for the majority of overpayments, collectively defrauding the system of
millions of dollars annually.”
Now 2017 Wisconsin Act 147, the legislation targets the worst offenders by increasing the penalty based on the amount of the fraud, using the same scale currently in statute for other types of theft. Prior to Act 147, penalties were substantially lower and carried little risk of prosecution.
“I am happy to have worked with the Department of Workforce Development and stakeholders in creating another tool to help deter fraud and aid in recovery of overpayments. Reducing fraud protects the integrity of the UI fund and helps ensure that the unemployment program remains a safety net for those who are out of work,” said Rep. Kerkman.
Unemployment Insurance benefits are funded through payroll taxes paid by Wisconsin employers. The integrity of the Unemployment Insurance program and trust fund contributes to a stable economy and is important to Wisconsin workers who may one day need the safety net the fund provides and to Wisconsin employers who feel the effects of program fraud through higher tax rates.