Ohio has paid about $ 2.1 billion in unemployment benefits to fraudsters or people who have received overpayments and it is not clear whether the repayment will be required, unemployment officials said Monday.
From the start of the pandemic from March 2020 to March 2021, Ohio has issued $ 462 million in fraudulent payments and $ 1.66 billion in overpayments, according to Matt Damschroder, acting director of the Department of Home Services. job and family in Ohio.
It was unclear on Monday whether Ohio will demand the refund.
“Our first step was to quantify the problem and now we can move on to the policy phase to rectify the non-fraudulent overpayments and how to fix them with the Ohio claimants,” he said.
The problem breaks down as follows:
- $ 21 million in fraud and $ 457 million in non-fraudulent overpayments under the traditional unemployment program.
- $ 441 million in fraud and $ 1.2 billion in non-fraudulent overpayments under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program for contracts and others not ordinarily covered by unemployment.
In February, Ohio officials estimated that $ 332 million had been paid in 2020 in the form of fraudulent checks.
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Fraud involves a deliberate plan to get money the person is not entitled to, Damschroeder said, while overpayments are likely the result of mistakes made by the worker, employer or the state. .
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Ohio has paid $ 11.56 billion to 1 million claimants through the traditional system and $ 10.2 billion to 1.1 million claimants through the PUA program. .
The state also borrowed $ 1.47 billion from the federal government to keep checks jobless after the state fund ran out of money in June.
Damschroder took over as acting director of the Ohio Department of Employment and Family Services after Kim Henderson resigned in March to leave the state.
The unemployment benefit system has been criticized by a massive increase in unemployment benefit claims during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been hampered by outdated IT equipment.
Reports of fraud have increased. Even Governor Mike DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted have reported that bogus unemployment claims have been made in their names.
The state is reporting suspected fraud to the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Department of Labor, which coordinates investigations with federal law enforcement agencies.
On March 25, the DeWine administration announced that the state would work with Google to perform data analysis on pending unemployment claims and look for signs of fraud. The governor also then announced that former U.S. Attorney David DeVillers would serve as a law enforcement expert on the fraud detection project.
Ohio and other states have been affected by fraudulent claims. Experts said that organized crime and drug networks are also involved in funding everything from terror to human trafficking.
The team of Ohio auditor Keith Faber criticized the unemployment program for having lax controls and for not complying with certain federal laws and regulations.
“During my time with the auditor’s office, I can only recall another time when we had to issue a qualified opinion. This is a big deal,” Deputy Chief Auditor Bob Hinkle said during testified before state lawmakers last week.
Faber’s office said during the audit, the Ohio JFS told auditors there had been an insignificant amount of fraud in the unemployment system.
This story will be updated.