The federal government has begun visiting employment insurance recipients at home as part of an "examination" being conducted while the program undergoes an overhaul. The majority of individuals selected for a random audit are receiving invitations, in person, to appear at their customary EI interviews as part of the project, which wraps up next month. "An examination to ensure the integrity of the employment insurance program is currently underway," Human Resources Development Canada told The Canadian Press in an email. Federal employees have been making the unannounced visits since January, and have been hand-delivering requests for people to appear at the regular EI interview. The sample of 1,200 EI recipients has been randomly selected from across the country, according to the government. "Every year, unfortunately, in our employment insurance system, hundreds of millions of dollars are identified or are lost through false or fraudulent or inappropriate claims," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at an event Thursday in Saskatoon. "One of the jobs of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is to ensure that the funds in the employment insurance system are there for people who have lost their jobs who qualify and who need that help," Harper said. Anyone getting EI benefits risks losing those payments if they don't keep track of their job search and provide those records to bureaucrats who check up on them. The new system also puts the screws to those who've used EI at least three times for a total of 60 weeks in five years. Such "frequent users" will get six weeks to look for work in their field. After that, they'll have to take a job even if it pays at least 70% of their last salary. Claimants will no longer qualify for EI if they refuse a job within a one-hour radius of their home, even if the job pays 30 per cent less than their previous employment. Federal officials estimate the new system will save taxpayers $33 million over the next year.
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