Roby Brock nicely rounds up a story first picked up in Arkansas by David Kinkade over on The Arkansas Project. Apparently, the folks at the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services have been paying erroneus unemployment benefits to the tune of $161 million.
In comments provided to Talk Business, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, Kimberly Friedman, tries to blame the problems on the "high volume of unemployment insurance claims" they are having to process during the recession and on the requirement to pay unemployment claims within seven days.
There are of course lots of follow up questions there, but a $161 million problem like this really deserves some explanation from the man in charge – DWS Director Artee Williams. You will recall that Williams retired this summer, but only for 30 days. He is back on the payroll now — officially a double dipper drawing both a salary and a pension.
Beebe defended rehiring him at the time with his spokesman telling the Arkansas Times that he was "someone we cannot lose…he’s taken a larger role than anyone in that position has. He’s done an exemplary job."
Here’s a question: how did such an "exemplary, must-have" employee let this big of an error take place on his watch?
I am sure this is a question our statewide daily newspaper will ask eventually. It did not make it into today’s edition as it appears they are working instead on the story about a state legislator – Rep. Denny Altes – who called about a problem his business was having with unemployment and happened to mention his status as a legislator.
"Interesting talk with DWS Director Williams," tweeted Sen. Jonathan Dismang this morning who has made unemployment reform one of his signature issues. "He positively commented that the DOL study showed they were doing it right 90% of the time. An interesting perspective on doing it wrong one out of every ten times and costing employers $161 million."