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Sound Bites: Connecticut’s rise in unemployment fraud

Connecticut Department of Labor building
Connecticut Department of Labor building

Good morning. Unemployment fraud is on the rise in Connecticut. 

According to the state Department of Labor, over $3 billion worth of fraudulent claims were submitted during the COVID-19 pandemic — and today, as fake claims continue. 

For example, a Waterbury man was charged on May 8 for illegally collecting over $24,000 in benefits despite working full-time. Unemployment fraud worth over $500 is a felony punished with up to five years in prison and a fine up to $5,000.  

Here’s a bite-sized look at what else we are hearing:

Lawmakers will consider repealing or replacing Connecticut’s motor vehicle property tax. A bill would create a task force to study issues impacted by the vehicle tax and submit a report to the state General Assembly to recommend ways to repeal the tax. If approved, the task force would be expected to submit their report by February 2024.

Suffolk County Police will reinstall technology to detect gunfire in several communities. ShotSpotter, an acoustic surveillance software, was first launched in the county in 2011 but funding for the surveillance ended in 2018 after officials found it to be ineffective. ShotSpotter was reintroduced due to promising technological advancements and police responding to more calls of gun violence.

A former Connecticut attorney is released from house arrest after seven months for tampering with his ankle monitoring device. Kevin Mawhinney was charged with conspiracy to commit murder for helping former real estate developer Fotis Dulos in the disappearance of his estranged wife Jennifer Dulos in 2019. Her remains are still missing, and she is presumed dead by police.

New York’s public campaign finance program will roll out for the 2024 election cycle.  Approved in the recent state budget, the program would allow state candidates to receive fund donations from individuals and have those donations matched and boosted with public funds. For instance, if an individual donates $175, that amount can be boosted to a maximum of $1,400 from public funds. A similar program in Suffolk County was dissolved before any money was distributed.

A West Haven dispensary formed Connecticut’s first cannabis workers union on Monday. Forty-eight Advanced Grow Labs employees joined with United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 919 to negotiate for higher wages, improved employee benefits and upgraded workplace protections. The UFCW represents over 10,000 cannabis employees across the country.

Suffolk County Community College has proposed a 3.1% tuition increase in the fall. Citing higher operating costs, College Vice President Mark Harris presented his $210.77 million budget to the county Legislature’s Education and Labor Committee on Wednesday. If approved, full-time tuition would increase to $5,640 while a single credit class would increase to $235.

New Haven’s Wooster Square Monument Project raised its donation goal to replace its Christopher Columbus statue — to $400,000. Approved by the city Board of Alders in 2022, the project will replace the 1892 Columbus statue with a life-size bronze statue of an Italian immigrant family created by Branford artist Marc Anthony Massaro. The project has raised $225,000, but due to rising bronze costs, the goal had to be increased.

Governor Ned Lamont’s pick to serve on Connecticut’s top court is facing backlash for supporting Trump Supreme Court nominee Amy Barret in 2017. Sandra Slack Glover, an assistant attorney for the District of Connecticut, testified before the state Judiciary Committee on Monday. Glover was nominated by Lamont to serve as associate justice of the state Supreme Court in April. Glover said she regrets her past actions and is committed to protect reproductive rights.

Suffolk County has invested $20 million to advance sewer projects in Brookhaven. The money comes from the county’s Water Quality Infrastructure Fund. The projects will establish water quality protection and economic development in Centereach, Selden, Farmingville and Coram.

Officials mistakenly sent mailers to over 900,000 Nassau County voters, notifying they were registered with the Democratic Party. County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, urged the county vendor and election officials to issue corrected Voter Mail Check Cards to ensure Republican and other third party voters that their party affiliations have not erroneously changed.

Bridgeport will host its first restaurant week since 2012. From June 24 to July 1, participating restaurants will offer locals and out-of-town foodies a fixed price lunch and dinner option. The city will spend $10,000 to promote restaurant week on area radio and digital platforms.

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Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.