An audit of Chemung, Onondaga, Orange, Schenectady and Warren counties by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office found hundreds of county jail inmates received inappropriate payments totaling more than $236,000 from various social welfare programs and almost $325,000 in state unemployment insurance.
"The state's social welfare and unemployment insurance programs are supposed to provide a safety net for society's poor and unemployed to help them make ends meet, not provide jailed criminals with a free ride," DiNapoli said. "Counties, working together with state policymakers and state agencies, need to do a better job making sure inappropriate payments are stopped and that only the truly deserving get help."
Chautauqua County, however, has kept on top of preventing inmates from collecting unemployment. Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace said when personal property is inventoried, social welfare and unemployment insurance cards are confiscated and turned over to Social Services in Chautauqua County.
"We are really diligent on reporting them if they are receiving social welfare and unemployment," Gerace said. "We are very aware and report (the cards) immediately."
The Sheriff's Office also provides a list of inmates on a daily basis to the Social Services as well as the U.S. Welfare System.