GOP bill would ban repeat unemployment fraud offenders from gett - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

GOP bill would ban repeat unemployment fraud offenders from getting benefits

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Assembly Committee on Public Benefit reform held a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that would ban anyone who repeatedly defrauds the state in order to receive unemployment insurance benefits from receiving future benefits for a period of seven years.

A state audit released earlier this year found 44,000 cases of intentional unemployment fraud that cost the state $86 million from 2011 to 2014.

"I didn't want to penalize them on the first strike," said Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem), who co-authored the bill. "I thought, you know, seven years, if they do it more than once it's giving us as taxpayers and people who are utilizing the system some measures of accountability."

But Democrats on the committee said many people who make simple mistakes on their forms will be penalized unnecessarily. They also want some distinction between lower and higher dollar fraud amounts.

"The author told me that she views someone stealing a dollar from their mom's purse and a bank robber totally the same," said Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Milton). "So we aren't even going to be able to talk about the amounts of fraud in this bill."

Anyone banned under the bill would still be able to go through an appeals process, but Democrats say they should be provided with legal representation for that given the severe consequences of the ban.

The Committee on Public Benefit Reform has not yet scheduled an executive session to vote on the bill.

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