Lawmakers in shock after learning state overpaid millions in unemployment benefits
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Republican and Democratic members of the Legislative Finance Committee were in shock after learning the Department of Workforce Solutions overpaid millions of dollars in unemployment benefits.
"We are left with trying to fix this problem," said Republican Sen. Crystal Diamond. "What we don’t want to happen is– we don’t want small businesses to be left having to really carry the weight of this."
Representative Patricia Lundstrom, the Democratic chair of the Legislative Finance Committee agrees with Diamond that the overpayment is damaging to the state.
Lundstrom said it’s a liability they’re going to have to backfill.
We don’t want to see any automatic increases to business," Lundstrom said. "That is the key issue."
Diamond blames the governor for the problem.
"Ultimately, this falls in the governor’s office, and the executive and this went on for far too long, and now legislators are being presented with somehow coming up with a solution of fixing a problem that should have never started and certainly should have never grown to the rate it is presented today," Diamond said.
Lundstrom is confident the problem will be rectified.
"We’re on it," she said. "We’re going to correct it and we are working with the Workforce Solutions Department."
Lundstrom says they have to shore up the unemployment insurance fund, but they’re also looking at using federal dollars the state will be receiving.
"I think what we are experiencing is exactly what other states are experiencing, it was a whole bunch of programs that all hit at the same time, and these federal programs didn’t come with rules or regulations," she said.
At a minimum, they say they’ll start looking at the deficit in January’s budget session, but first they need Workforce Solutions to address problems.
"Immediately address their lack of staffing here to contract with people, to immediately begin to address the backlogs of reported fraud that’s happening with our unemployment department," Diamond said.
Lundstrom hopes the people involved in fraud and identity theft are caught, and Diamond is looking for additional accountability.
"I would like to know why the governor herself is not coming out and explaining this gross mismanagement of New Mexico’s taxpayers’ dollars," she said.
The governor’s office declined an interview with KOB 4.