KRQE News 13 (Albuquerque, NM) recently reported that New Mexico lost more than $13.4 million in fraudulent COVID-19 pandemic unemployment payments, according to a recent report from the US Government Accountability Office (“GAO”).

The fraudulent unemployment insurance (“UI”) payouts may have been the result of incorrect information from the claimant, claimant’s employer, or errors within state government.  Of the estimated fraudulent payments in New Mexico, the GAO estimates that less than $1 million was recovered.

The KRQE News 13 report may be viewed HERE.

The GAO’s findings are discussed on its website, which may be read HERE.  A copy of the GAO’s complete September 2023 report addressing fraudulent COVID-19 UI payments nationwide may be viewed or downloaded by clicking HERE.

In summary, the GAO estimated that from April 2020 to May 2023, the amount of fraud in UI programs during the COVID-19 pandemic was likely between $100 billion and $135 billion, representing between 11% to 15% of the total amount of UI benefits paid during the pandemic.

The full extent of UI fraud during the pandemic will likely never be known with certainty, with the US Department of Labor expressing concerns about the GAO’s fraud estimation methodology – believing that the GAO’s estimate was likely overstated.  The GAO disagrees.

My brothers and sisters, there are no quick and easy answers in matters such as this.  Starting in March 2020 at the beginning of the US COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, there was legitimate fear and many dying horrible deaths across the nation.

The lockdowns, whether one agrees or disagrees with them after the fact, decimated many businesses and changed the face of the workforce in the US for decades to come.  In light of this, it seemed reasonable and compassionate for government (state and federal) to provide financial assistance to citizens and businesses.

With human nature being what it is, fraud is inevitable in such scenarios – sadly.  So, what lessons have our state and federal governments learned?  What actions have been put into place to prevent such waste of taxpayers’ funds in the future?

In New Mexico, only about 1/13th ($1 million) of the estimated $13.4 million in fraudulent payments has been recovered.  Could it be that taking stronger legal action might be a little too revealing (read:  embarrassing, indicative of gross negligence or even criminality) for our governmental agencies and personnel?

The above-referenced GAO report states that since 2018, the GAO “has made 26 recommendations to DOL to improve the UI system.  However, [the] DOL has not yet fully implemented 16 of these; doing so can reduce UI’s fraud vulnerabilities.”  Is it possible that the level of fraud experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic might have been less if some or all of these recommendations were undertaken by the DOL?

The LORD commands and values honesty in our lives.  As a reminder, the 8th Commandment given to Moses by God Almighty tells us not to steal and the 9th Commandment tells us not to bear false witness (lie)!

Leviticus 19:11 (NKJV)
“You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.”

Proverbs 11:1-3 (ESV)
“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.  The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.”

1 Peter 3:10 (NLT)
“For the Scriptures say, ‘[i]f you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.'”

3 John 3-4 (NKJV)
“For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth [emphases mine].”

Praise Jesus forevermore!

More From FGGAM: New Mexico Is Ranked 8th Worst State for Teachers! I just shake my head at the people of New Mexico, allowing such dysfunction to exist.

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