ERIE – State Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49) today called for an investigation into the Wolf administration’s attempt to cover up sweeping overcharges levied against unemployed Pennsylvanians from whom it was attempting to recoup erroneous payments.
The call came in response to a report by SpotlightPA revealing that the administration learned of the overcharges in 2016 and it quoted former employees saying they were told to keep quiet about the matter. The Department of Labor and Industry, assigned to recoup unemployment overpayments, charged a 9 percent interest rate – a rate far in excess of the interest rates set under state regulations.
In one case, according to the report, the overcharges amounted to $11,000 for one unemployment compensation recipient.
The news agency quoted one former staff member at the Department of Labor and Industry saying she was assigned to work on the issue and instructed not to inform her supervisor of what she was doing.
“It’s often said that the coverup is worse than the crime,” Laughlin said. “We clearly have a coverup. It’s time for an independent agency to investigate the Wolf administration’s handling of this disaster.”
SpotlightPA reported that administration officials held more than a dozen meetings since discovering the overcharges in 2016. It only began to start refunding a portion of the overcharges on Friday, after SpotlightPA asked for comment.
Laughlin called the overcharges, which could amount to the tens of millions of dollars, “another example of the vast dysfunction within the Department of Labor and Industry.
“During the pandemic, tens of thousands of people were unable to get benefits they deserved. Then the administration put a new computer system online that further delayed benefits. Now, we find out they overcharged people for repayments and tried to keep it secret,” Laughlin said. “We need some agency to take a hard look at what appears to be the most dysfunctional department in state government.”