AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Tuesday, March 2, the Texas Workforce Commission appeared before the Texas Senate Committee on Finance at the Capitol to outline its biennial budget and answer questions from lawmakers.
“Since [March], we processed over 7 million claims, and we paid out over $42 billion in payments. So to give you some perspective, when you compare that to fiscal 2019, that’s a 948% more claims and 2,000% more payments than that one year,” TWC executive director Ed Serna told the committee on Tuesday.
The Legislative Budget Board said in fiscal year 2020, 78% of claims made were related to COVID-19.
“At our peak in the summer, we were paying over 1.8 million Texans a week. Currently we’re paying about 1.1 million Texans a week,” Serna continued.
While Texas is doing better than other states in fraudulent claims paid out, TWC reports it doled out half a billion dollars to suspicious claimants.
“I’m not pleased to report that of the $42.6 billion in payments that we’ve made, we’ve only let 1.2%, or about $506 million go out to suspicious claimants, and of that only $90 million are state dollars,” Serna explained.
Serna said that $506 million equates to about 300,000 claims, which is a worst-case scenario. The TWC is working to confirm those suspicious claims as fraudulent, which he said the agency has already confirmed half of them.
“We’re not satisfied with it, and we’re continuing to work on ways to improve our processes,” Serna said, adding the agency did successfully stop more than $3 billion fraudulently going out the door.
Going forward, the TWC is asking for continued funding for its new online programming, passed during the 86th legislative session. TWC had to stop focusing on the building of the new program once COVID-19 hit, so all of the agency’s employees could focus on taking calls.
Now, things are back in full gear.
“I executed a contract a couple of months ago, we’re replacing that old system with a cloud-based system. We’re not rebuilding it. And we’re not we’re not modernizing the existing system, we’re completely replacing it,” Serna said.
The agency is also asking for continued funding of its expanded communication infrastructure it gained during the pandemic.