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ODJFS mistakes show work left to do

When taxpayer dollars started gushing out of Washington, D.C., with the onset of efforts to mitigate the economic damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, not everyone who took advantage of the flood had good intentions. Here in Ohio, an audit of the Department of Job and Family Services showed overpayments and fraudulent claims added up to approximately $3.8 billion since 2020.

However, lest you think the bulk of that mishandling of our money was the result of criminals who intended to commit fraud and slipped past the ODJFS, $475 million was paid in fraudulent cases … the other $3.3 billion was a result of overpayment by those working at the ODJFS.

“This public interest audit was launched after ODJFS initially failed to disclose the risk and magnitude of ongoing fraud within the unemployment system. This increased risk and lack of controls resulted in the inability to obtain reasonable assurance about the accuracy and completeness of reported amounts within the state’s June 30, 2020, financial statements and led to the Auditor of State’s office issuing a modified state opinion in regard to Ohio’s financial outlook,” according to a news release from Ohio Auditor Keith Faber.

Of course, ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder tried to pin the blame on the unprecedented surge in claims, and certainly that had something to do with it. But Faber’s office is right. You don’t lose nearly $4 billion worth of taxpayer money unless there is something broken in the system — a “lack of controls,” as Faber politely put it.

Damschroder, who, to be fair, has been director only since July, says there is work already under way to address the issues. Good. Let us hope it is not too little, because it is already about $3.8 billion too late.

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