The Senate today approved legislation intended to reduce unemployment benefit fraud.
Sen. Dan Newberry, Senate author of House Bill 2204, said the bill provides reforms to deter fraud and encourage unemployed workers to actively seek job opportunities.
“Unemployment benefits are intended to provide assistance to those who lose a job, as they transition to new opportunities,” said Newberry, R-Tulsa. “But we must be careful that these benefits do not provide a disincentive to work. This measure helps us strike a better balance between these two concerns.”
Authored by Rep. Randy McDaniel, HB 2204 would require those who knowingly continue to receive unemployment benefits after securing a new job to pay restitution on all falsely paid benefits, in addition to a penalty of 25 percent of the amount of the original overpayment. Money collected through the penalties would then be dedicated to the unemployment trust fund and fraud investigations.
The measure also requires those who file for unemployment benefits to provide documentation within seven days showing they are actively seeking a job. The floor substitute includes provisions stating those who are fired for failing a drug test will be ineligible to receive unemployment benefits.
“Curbing unemployment benefit fraud doesn’t just save the state money, it ultimately lowers operating costs for small businesses in Oklahoma,” Newberry said. “Reducing incidents of fraud and abuse in the system allows us to keep unemployment insurance taxes low. This bill provides penalties to deter fraud and incentives for unemployed workers to actively seek employment opportunities.”
The measure will now return to the House for further consideration.