Some 46,000 people are still waiting for a response from the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH) to receive unemployment payment, revealed the secretary of the agency, Carlos Rivera Santiago, during the transition hearings that continued yesterday.
As he explained, of the people waiting for the solution of the so-called controversial points, there are 10,000 who have received something and the remaining 30,000 have not received a penny for unemployment. There are also some 6,000 applications pending to be processed at the agency, he said.
“These points are being worked on. It is important to note that it does not mean that everyone is eligible. There are some controversial points that are raised for possible fraud. You have to look at situation by situation and they are different situations, “said the secretary at the press conference after the conclusion of yesterday’s hearing.
According to Rivera Santiago, there are 500,000 Puerto Ricans receiving unemployment, either that offered by the government or through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA, for its acronym in English). He pointed out that the figure does not imply that there are 500,000 people without work, since many workers receive the assistance because they are partially employed.
Rivera Santiago revealed that he has referred between 38,000 to 42,000 cases of fraud for applying for unemployment assistance. He explained that they are cases that range from identity theft to lying under oath or using different names to request the benefit.
These cases, he reported, have been referred to state and federal agencies. He clarified that there are people who are accused of more than one case of fraud. As an example, he mentioned a single person who made 15 potentially fraudulent requests.
Many others have chosen to return checks that they received fraudulently or that did not correspond to them. In total, he added, $ 56 million in unemployment payments have been returned.
They keep tracking
The Secretary of Labor reported that there are at least 9,000 government and public corporation employees along with 3,000 other municipal employees on the list of those who applied to collect unemployment without qualifying for insurance.
According to the official, they have tried to corroborate the list of government employees with the agencies to determine if these officials continue to work in these offices.
So far, he noted, only 20 agencies have responded to the Department of Labor’s request for corroboration.
The president of the incoming transition committee, Ramón Luis Rivera, mentioned as an example that in his municipality they identified 73 employees with potential cases of unemployment fraud.
When the closure was decreed due to the coronavirus pandemic, central and municipal government employees ceased functions in the offices, but many continued to work remotely and continued to receive wages.
“There were 10 employees who returned the money; 36 who have payment plans; 16 who never received the money and 11 who claimed they had another job, ”explained Rivera.
“It may have happened in some other municipality or agency where there is an employee who filled out the application, filled it out correctly, but if he has another job in which he stopped collecting, they had a drop in income,” he continued.
The program background dries
As early as next March – if urgent action is not taken – the Unemployment Insurance Trust could run out of funds to pay people out of work.
Both the outgoing and incoming transition committees assured yesterday that there are alternatives to prevent this fund from bleeding. Among other things, they mentioned the option of injecting Cares Act funds or applying for a loan from the federal government.
As reported, since the first shutdown of the economy was announced in March and through November, the government has disbursed $ 733 million in unemployment payments.
Unemployment Insurance has about $ 203 million left until March, if no additional measures are taken.
“If we do nothing, the fund goes until March,” said Rivera Santiago. “But that is not going to happen. We hope to be able to make an investment in December. In March there could be as much as $ 50 million, but that is a scenario that will not happen because we are going to take the measures ”, he emphasized.