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More Ohio Unemployment Claims Flagged For Fraud As Investigations Continue

Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services in downtown Columbus.
Ohio Public Radio
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Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services in downtown Columbus.

Over 120,000 claims for traditional unemployment were filed in Ohio in the last week. At least 21,000 are suspected to be fraudulent, bringing the total of claims flagged for fraud to 127,000 in the last month. But it may be a while before it’s known how big the fraud really is, and who can be blamed for it.

A quarter of the 512,317 traditional unemployment claims filed in the last four weeks are being flagged for fraud.

Before she left as director of the agency last week, former Ohio Job and Family Services Director Kim Henderson told the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services that investigations are progressing into fraud, but they’re proceeding mostly at the national level.

“We have seen some subpoena activity come back into the unemployment office from the office of the inspector general," Henderson said. "So we know that they're moving forward. I can't share a lot about that. I have not yet seen arrests per se emerge in the press.”

Henderson said some states have been able to recover a percentage of their fraudulent payouts, and Ohio will try to do the same.

ODJHFS has been overwhelmed trying to process over two million COVID related unemployment claims - more than the total in the last six years and many thought to be fraudulent.

Fraudulent claims accounted for $700 million of the more than $8.7 billion that’s been paid out during the pandemic. The large-scale fraud was confined mostly to the federally-funded pandemic unemployment assistance program until late last year, when scammers starting hitting traditional unemployment in Ohio and many other states.

Those fraud investigations have slowed down the release of claims by people who have legitimately filed for unemployment benefits.

Henderson is being replaced on an interim basis by Matt Damschroder, who was heading up the Ohio Department of Adminstrative Services. Henderson will continue as an advisor this month, until she relocates to North Carolina.