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Pandemic Unemployment Numbers Have Been Inaccurate And Benefits Improperly Distributed, Report Finds

(Photo by LEAH MILLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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A report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office found that the Labor Department has been inaccurately reporting unemployment numbers and some relief benefits haven’t been fully distributed. 

The GAO report says that the Labor Department’s weekly report of the number of Americans filing unemployment claims contains inaccuracies. The Department had been tallying the number of claims filed by each state and using that data as a proxy for the number of nationwide total claims, but the GAO says that method does not produce an accurate count due to backlogs in state systems and other issues. 

The report also found that many Americans have not been receiving the full relief they are entitled to under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Department of Labor officials told the GAO that many states initially only paid out the minimum payments to workers so they could more expediently distribute the money. (RELATED: Tequila Bar Reportedly Registers To Become A Church To Skirt Around Coronavirus Restrictions)

However, the GAO report found that a majority of states were still paying out the minimum amounts to many workers instead of the full amounts they were entitled to as recently as September. 

It says that “27 of the 41 states reported average weekly PUA benefits paid that were within 25 percent of the state’s minimum PUA benefit amount; 10 of these states reported average benefits within 10 percent of the minimum. This suggests that many individuals in these states are receiving the minimum benefit.”

GAO includes recommendations in the report to fix these problems, including the DOL revising the weekly unemployment report, finding a new method of measuring the total number of claims and states going back to pay the difference between the amount of benefits people were owed and the minimum they were actually given. (RELATED: Los Angeles Restaurant Refuses To Close, Takes Jab At Governor Newsom With ‘The French Laundry’ Sign)

The GAO also says the inaccuracies of the unemployment data could make it harder for congress to act to pass a stimulus, as they haven’t necessarily been working with complete and accurate information on exactly how the pandemic is affecting the economy.

Republicans and Democrats in congress have repeatedly failed to pass a new economic relief bill in recent months, as both legislative chambers and the White House have worked to seek a suitable compromise.