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Audit uncovers problems with Tennessee's unemployment system

April 26th, 2014 6:29 pm by Associated Press

Audit uncovers problems with Tennessee's unemployment system

NASHVILLE — An audit has found problems with the state's unemployment system for the second year in a row.

The Tennessean reports the audit found $181 million in jobless benefits were improperly paid out in 2013. Last year, an audit found improper payments of $73 million.

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said the hike in overpayments was due to a change in accounting rules.

In addition, the audit found that some of the improper payments went to 84 felons behind bars.

The Labor Department disputed many of the findings and blamed some of the issues on old technology.

"We do appreciate the intent of the audit, which is to help us identify and correct issues that we need to address," said Commissioner Burns Phillips. "Some findings we simply didn't agree with, some have already been corrected, and with others we're bringing about the right corrective actions, real solutions that will take our system where it needs to be."

Meanwhile, people with legitimate claims continue to have problems with the phone system, the audit found. Only 15 percent of callers got through according to June 2013 statistics.

Karen Lacey, a Nashville resident who has been trying to get unemployment benefits since March 3, said it is frustrating.

"I just sit and I redial, redial, redial, I try all hours of the day," Lacey said. "It's been a big problem."

State Sen. Jack Johnson, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee and was critical of the department last year when an audit had similar findings, groaned at the report.

"This is something that we've just got to get right and I know Commissioner Phillips is really trying to make some structural changes in how the department operates," he said. "It's just completely unacceptable."

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Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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