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Arizona clears 90,000 unemployment claims flagged for fraud by DES

PHOENIX – About 90,000 Arizona unemployment claims that were held up because of suspected fraud have been approved, authorities said Friday.

The state Department of Economic Security said it flagged more than 1 million Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims as potentially fraudulent.

The department has been working with data analytics companies, financial institutions and government partners to review the claims.

“DES made the decision this week to process and pay approximately 90,000 claims, and we began issuing payments this week,” agency spokesman Brett Bezio told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an email. DES said about $730 million in payments were cleared.

Bezio said 3.4 million Arizonans are employed, but the state has received almost 2.7 million unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While unemployment has been high in the pandemic, it hasn’t reached 80%, which indicates a significant amount of fraud among claims,” he said.

The PUA program, part of the federal coronavirus relief package know as the CARES Act, provided a $600 weekly unemployment benefit enhancement.

That extra payout expired last month after Congress failed to reach an agreement to extend it.

Last week, Arizona became eligible for a new $300 enhancement available through funding from Federal Emergency Management Agency under an executive order signed recently by President Donald Trump.

The extra payments bring Arizona’s maximum unemployment payment to $540 weekly.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Martha Maurer contributed to this report.

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