STATE HOUSE – It is widely assumed, said Rep. Dennis M. Canario, that there is fraud in the employment benefits system, that money is being paid to individuals who shouldn’t be getting it.
“If there is fraud, even a speck of it, we should do more than wring our hands and call for changes,” said Representative Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton). “We should investigate thoroughly and if we determine there are individuals who have been scamming the system, we should move to recover any payments made as a result of fraud.”
Legislation introduced by Representative Canario, 2015-H 5937, authorizes the Department of Labor and Training to recover overpayments made to certain individuals due to specific types of fraud committed by a claimant.
The director of the DLT currently has the authority, under Rhode Island law, to make determinations on a claim for benefits, including disqualifications. The Canario legislation would give the benefits office one year from that initial determination to alter that decision if it is found to have been made as a result of non-disclosed or misrepresented information. If that is determined to be the case, the bill allows the DLT director to conduct a fact-finding investigation and to recover any overpayments, as well as penalties and interest, that resulted from a fraud perpetrated by a claimant.
“Understandably, the benefits office tries to expedite decisions on claims because individuals who legitimately are qualified to receive them need to receive them as quickly as possible,” said Representative Canario. “This legislation gives the DLT another year to review those initial decisions, which may have been made with erroneous or, often, bogus information.”
Even though it may take a year to find any fraud in any particular claim, it is better to find it then not, he said. “And when any fraud is found, it is only important to terminate those benefits immediately, but also to be able to recoup any money paid out that shouldn’t have been. People defrauding the system shouldn’t just have their benefits cancelled, they should be compelled to repay what they received illegally.”
The Canario bill has been referred to the House Committee on Labor. Co-sponsors include Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) and Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).
For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903