Raleigh, N.C. — The state Division of Employment Security continues to trail the rest of the nation in determining who is eligible for unemployment benefits, according to new figures from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The state was accurate in only 12 percent of cases for initial eligibility, down from 27 percent a year ago, federal records show. For continued eligibility, it was accurate 47 percent of the time, up from 39 percent at the end of 2011.
The Labor Department's acceptable level is 75 percent.
“There are systemic issues having to deal with how the department is run and how we can empower people to do a better job at customer service," said Dale Folwell, who was named Wednesday to head the Division of Employment Security.
"Any opportunity we have to cut out waste fraud and abuse is a dollar that can be truly spent on those who are unemployed in this state," said Folwell, a former House member from Forsyth County.
Current lawmakers said the numbers are alarming.
"We've dropped the ball, so we need to clean things up," said Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland.
"We're going to look and see how we can improve that program and make sure that the people who deserve unemployment benefits are getting it without fear of fraud and abuse," said Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake.
The General Assembly recently passes legislation that slashes unemployment benefits to help pay off $2.5 billion borrowed from the federal government for jobless benefits during the recession. The new law also makes it more difficult for people to collect unemployment.
Murry said a "lack of confidence" in the unemployment system made it difficult for lawmakers to consider allowing the status quo to continue.
"If we have a program integrity issue, I think we need to fix that first and make sure the people who deserve the benefits are getting it," he said.
Pierce said, however, that the two issues should have been looked at separately.
"The citizens should not be penalized for the mismanagement," he said.