DAYTON — The number of fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits and inadvertent overpayments more than doubled in Ohio since the recession began as the number of jobless workers claiming benefits rose.
Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said the unprecedented rise in the number of jobless workers claiming benefits has meant “more opportunity for fraud,” the Dayton Daily News reported.
Last year, Ohio recovered $9.4 million in overpaid benefits and fraudulent claims from about 50,000 claimants, compared with $7.2 million from about 22,000 claimants in 2007. In 2011, Ohio paid out about $3.3 billion in unemployment compensation, nearly three times the $1.2 billion distributed in 2007.
More people claiming benefits legitimately has led to more laid-off workers continuing to collect benefits when they no longer qualify or filing false claims that go undetected for months because of the state’s huge case load.
Fraud has negatively affected the state’s unemployment compensation trust fund, which was forced to borrow money to keep up with payouts and still owes the federal government more than $2 billion.
Ohio last year added employees to its benefit payment control unit to locate fraud and overpayments. Salaries of the payment control unit’s 46 staffers are paid by the federal government, which collects a portion of the money they recover that was paid out as federally funded emergency or extended unemployment benefits.
Reclaimed state benefits go back into the state unemployment compensation fund. More than 150 in Ohio have been prosecuted for unemployment insurance fraud in the past two years, the paper reported.
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