At a time when unemployment compensation is in the news with many Pennsylvanians trying to find work, it is very troubling to hear of problems with the state's program.
The latest state unemployment numbers continue to climb in a continuing uncertain economy.
Resident employment fell by 16,000 to 5,792,000 while the number of unemployed residents rose 22,000 to 516,000, according to August data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.
An estimated $376 million - or 11 percent of the $3.33 billion paid nationwide in unemployment benefits between July 2010 and June 2011 - were found to be erroneously paid to Pennsylvania residents, PA Independent reported last week in citing U.S. Department of Labor data.
Only California and Indiana had worse error rates than Pennsylvania, the federal data show.
The federal government estimates that while 10 percent of all payments are made in error, less than 5 percent are the result of fraud, PA Independent reported.
"Any overpayment is unfortunate and, obviously, we are working to detect and recover improper payments," state Labor & Industry spokesman Sean Yeakle told PA Independent. "We have investigators who look into it, and we have partnered with other states to find solutions."
Getting this overpayment issue corrected is vital, whether in a weak or strong economy.
Pennsylvania currently owes the federal government more than $2.8 billion for the money it borrowed in March 2009 to prop up its struggling compensation fund. Pennsylvania, 26 other states and the U.S. Virgin Islands are paying back federal trust fund loans, the National Conference of State Legislature said.
We applaud recent efforts to reform the Pennsylvania compensation system with the signing of Senate Bill 1030 into law.
Those efforts include requiring recipients to search for work and changing the way the maximum weekly benefit is calculated - actions that will save the state $120 million a year, according to the law's sponsor, state Sen. John Gordner, R-Columbia.
But we urge Auditor General Jack Wagner to conduct a special performance audit of the unemployment compensation fund and recommend any changes to reduce the amount of overpayments.