JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A new reported, released by State Auditor Shad White, showed that more than $590 million in unemployment compensation was misspent in Mississippi alone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, released on September 6, also highlights the Office of the State Auditor’s use of advanced data analytics tools such as geospatial and multi-datapoint analysis to investigate widespread fraud.

“The pandemic response resulted in a historic amount of taxpayer money wasted. Some of this money is simply gone forever,” said White. “But my office is using the fraud as an opportunity to use new audit tools, like advanced data analytics that will hopefully pay dividends in the future.”

In fiscal year 2020, unemployment claims in Mississippi were more than $2.1 billion from the previous year’s $59.6 million. White said these increased benefits resulted in massive fraud and misspending.

One reason the fraud occurred is the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) bypassed or altered its fraud-prevention systems, according to White.

The Auditor’s Office has partnered with an advanced data analytics firm to identify improperly paid unemployment claims, recover stolen funds if possible, and hold fraudsters accountable.