$3.4M in unemployment benefits paid to Texas inmates - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

$3.4M in unemployment benefits paid to Texas inmates

The Texas Workforce Commission is working to correct the mistakes that lead to some $3.4 million of Texas taxpayer money being paid to Texas inmates in the form of unemployment benefits.

The commission says once identified, payments on those fraudulent claims were stopped. However, some feel the commission's efforts to fight this fraud are just as bogus as the claims that were filed.

"We are a broke state, we are a broke nation that is borrowing money so we can write checks to inmates," exclaimed area defense attorney Jeff Blackburn.

Blackburn says he's seen it happen himself.

"I have seen a lot of people with completely bogus claims get paid," he added.

Some 1,700 inmates in Texas, paid unemployment while sitting in a cell. That's because, Blackburn says, it's too easy to file.

"You could send a bunny rabbit in there that doesn't speak and have somebody fill out a form for them and they'll probably get unemployment benefits," he said.

The commission says much of the fraud happens because of the lack of an all inclusive database on inmates in state, county and city jails.

"What we don't have access to as readily is those city municipalities and the county facilities," said Texas Workforce Commission Spokesperson Lisa Givens. "We don't have one single repository to be able to quickly access that data."

"Finding out whether someone is in jail is a matter of paying I think five dollars a month for a service that anyone can get on the Internet and just typing in a name," argued Blackburn. "That's it."

Givens says the commission is working on a new system but some like Blackburn believe it may have more incentive to overlook rather than investigate.

"They don't investigate, they don't do their jobs," Blackburn added. "The bigger the numbers are in terms of like who they're writing checks to, as I understand it, the more money they get from the federal government."

The Texas Workforce Commission, Givens said, will be testing out that new pilot system in the next few years.

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