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Bill Proposed To Curb Unemployment Fraud, But Some Worry It Goes Too Far

The online Uplink system where Hoosiers must apply for unemployment benefits. (Justin Hicks/IPB News)

A bill that attempts to crack down on unemployment insurance fraud passed an Indiana House committee, but some are worried it could instead penalize people making sincere mistakes on applications.

House Bill 1152 would disqualify and create penalties for people who fail to disclose new income while getting benefits, or falsify a fact on an unemployment insurance application. Current laws penalize false material facts – that is, facts that most people understand would affect their eligibility. The new bill would change that to any incorrect fact.

Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville) says the bill goes too far and could penalize people who make honest mistakes because they don’t understand the system.

“Some folks don’t have high school degrees with all the English writing skills that some of us have,” he said. "Their applications may include false facts that they didn’t intend to be false or misrepresentative of their situation.”

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

But bill author Rep. Dan Leonard (R-Huntington) says the only intent is to better weed out fraud.

“We’re not after convicting or going after people that make mistakes,” he said. “We’re trying to cut down on the overall fraud that’s being committed in the fund and get the benefits to the Hoosiers that deserve them.”

With an 8 to 4 vote along party lines, the bill passed to the House floor. 

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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