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News / Business / Clark County Business

Latest round of Washington unemployment fraud could have tie to Clark County

By Will Campbell, Columbian Associate Editor
Published: May 20, 2021, 7:13pm

Washington was hit with another round of fraudulent unemployment insurance claims, and some of them may have come from Clark County. Because of the state’s fraud detection, no money has been paid to those claims.

The state last week had an 18.2 percent increase in initial regular claims from the prior week, which the Employment Security Department attributed to fraud, as well as to increases in layoffs in health care and social assistance, educational services, and retail trade industries.

“Our controls to identify these fraudulent claims are working,” the Employment Security Department wrote in a news release on Thursday. “These claims will show up in the weekly claims numbers even though they are not paid.”

Clark County’s initial unemployment claims rose from 521 at the beginning of May to 956 claims last week, and regional economist Scott Bailey suspects some of them are fraudulent.

“Statewide, they’re confirmed to be fraud, but we don’t have county-specific data,” he said.

Bailey said the fraud appears to be coming from within the state, as opposed to a wave of fraudulent claims that came from Nigeria early in the pandemic. The state lost $650 million in that unemployment fraud, and has recovered some of it. One suspect was arrested last week.

Total continued claims in Clark County went up from 13,795 to 14,063 claims, but Bailey suspects that “this was a one-week blip and would look for the decline to resume next week,” he said.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation fell to 139 claims last week, but only because of a spike two weeks ago caused by a change in the Employment Security Department’s internal data system.

In the month overall, the pandemic unemployment claims were slightly higher as of last week, not including the system format claims. Bailey said the increase came from a range of industries. Retail trade was up 24 claims, transportation, business services was up 19 claims and warehousing was up 34 claims last week.

“This is probably a temporary blip in the downward trend since the beginning of the year,” he said.