The Guam Department of Labor has received a $210,000 grant from the federal government to assist with efforts to prevent and detect fraud and identity theft in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistant program. 

As of Sept. 18, more than 20,000 of the 69,747 initial PUA claims in the agency’s online unemployment system were potential fraud cases, according to a Guam Department of Labor news release.

The agency is clearing claims through mid-August and said fraud applications have jumped to 90% of daily claims filed. 

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“This criminal activity puts those with true claims in a state of jeopardy,” said David Dell’Isola, Guam Department of Labor director. “We are deeply concerned about the well-being of our people who are entitled to these unemployment benefits, but applications become stalled due to this significant surge in unemployment fraud.”  

The agency will work with federal, state, and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute the fraud, the release stated. In collaboration with banking institutions, the agency will work to recover identified fraud payments. 

Fraud has also caused delays in implementing and paying out the new unemployment benefits approved by President Donald Trump, according to the release.

Guam was recently awarded $22.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a three-week program that will provide an additional $400 a week to PUA claimants receiving at least $100 in unemployment benefits. 

“Guam will be liable for any fraudulent or overpayments made with this new supplement, making it even more vital to impede unemployment theft,” Dell’Isola said. “More than $26 billion in fraud across the nation has been projected by the Office of the Inspector General, who will audit Guam’s unemployment program. It is my department’s duty to ensure we have one of the cleanest programs across the nation.” 

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