updated April 23 at 4:31 p.m.*
Want to claim unemployment insurance on the go? There’s an app for that.
The state Department of Employment and Workforce released on Wednesday a free iClaim app designed to reduce fraud and improve customer service among unemployment insurance claimants. Approximately $16 million in improper payments to claimants are made annually, according to agency estimates.
The app—currently only available on the iPhone—was the result of nationwide efforts by the federal Labor Department to prevent fraud. The first in the nation to offer such a tool, the agency applied for a grant from the federal government and received $1.8 million for fraud prevention efforts, including the app and other automation processes.
While the app will help reduce fraud, the focus is on education and prevention, said agency spokeswoman, Adrienne Fairwell at a news conference over the phone Wednesday.
The app includes a locator function that helps the agency track and flag claimants who are out of state. The function only tracks claimants’ locations while they are using the app.
Eligibility for unemployment insurance depends partly on availability to work. The agency will follow up with out-of-state claimants to determine whether they are, in fact, available for work in South Carolina.
Other features include notifications to help claimants track their benefits and text alerts that let them know when it’s time to file a claim.
Through the state’s bidding process, the agency chose the Oregon-based firm, Radha Consulting to develop the app. Other states are pursuing similar measures, said Fairwell.
Fairwell said the agency has found many claimants don’t deliberately make fraudulent claims. She said the tool will help the agency better educate claimants, resulting in fraud prevention.
With 70 percent of claimants in South Carolina using a mobile device to access the Internet, according to DEW, Fairwell couldn’t immediately say how many of those were iPhone users. The agency plans to make the app available on the Android platform later this year.
*Per updated numbers from DEW, $16 million in improper payments are made annually. The original copy in the second paragraph had stated that $30 million in improper payments are made annually.