ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - New Mexico is ranked number one for cracking down on the number of people getting unemployment benefits when they shouldn't be.
In the budget year that ended in June 2011, the state paid nearly $70 million to people who were claiming unemployment but weren't eligible. The Department of Workforce Solutions made it its mission to stop the mistakes and fraud.
"From people certifying for other people, on behalf of other people, returning to work, or taking work and not reporting it, such as cash jobs, anything like that," said Joy Forehand, spokeswoman for the Department of Workforce Solutions.
Currently, 26,000 New Mexicans are certified for benefits. To qualify, people out-of-work have to actively search for work. Forehand said a lot of people weren't, and the state didn't catch them.
"We were more aggressive about that job search requirement," said Forehand.
Forehand said employees were required to manually check job databases, such as the state and national new hire directories, to see if claimants found jobs but were still claiming unemployment benefits.
The changes made a difference. In the budget year that ended this past June, the state improperly paid out about $30 million but that is $40 million less than the year before.
The state said it is going to be tweaking its system even more to make sure the unemployed are looking for work or getting off unemployment if they've found a job.