NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The COVID-19 pandemic led to high rates of unemployment in New Mexico, with an estimated 100,000 or more New Mexicans losing their jobs. To help the unemployed, the federal government distributed billions in unemployment insurance across the U.S. Now, a new report reveals millions of dollars’ worth of payouts in New Mexico were likely fraudulent.

The report comes from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report reviews state data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor on payouts from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and other programs that included payouts for unemployment.

Not all the payouts were the correct amount and sent to eligible individuals. Millions of dollars of payouts were fraudulent, the GAO report estimates.

In New Mexico, more than $13.4 million in pandemic unemployment insurance payouts were fraudulent overpayments, according to the report. Those overpayments can be the result of incorrect information from the claimant, their employer, or the state, the report says.

Of those overpayments in New Mexico, less than $1 million was recovered, the GAO report says.

Across the U.S., there was likely more than $100 billion in fraud during the pandemic, the GAO estimates, which accounts for a little over 10% of all the unemployment insurance benefits paid out during the pandemic.

Fraud tallies vary widely from state to state. Ohio, for example, had an estimated $1 billion in fraudulent overpayments, the report estimates. Texas and Colorado each had more than an estimated 300 million in fraudulent pandemic insurance payouts.