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Ohio Overpaid Nearly $3.4 Billion In Pandemic Unemployment Payments

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Mark Lennihan

Ohio paid nearly $3.4 billion dollars in overpayments to people getting unemployment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. And while the state is still counting up all the money that was overpaid, that total does not include the paid claims that were fraudulent.

The state now counts $3.38 billion in overpayments for non-fraudulent claims in both traditional unemployment and the federally-funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA program for people who don’t qualify for traditional benefits. A total of $478 million was paid to fraudulent claims in both programs.

Here's the breakdown of the overpayments:

  • $586 million in overpayments to non-fraudulent claims for traditional unemployment
  • $2.8 billion in overpayments to non-fraudulent claims in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program
  • $28 million in overpayments to fraudulent claims for traditional unemployment
  • $450 million in overpayments to fraudulent claims in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

But Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder said most of that went to fraudulent PUA claims, which has happened to other state’s PUA programs too.

“While they were very important for a number of Ohioans and people across the country to get through the pandemic, created a really big bullseye for scammers," Damschroder said in an interview for "The State of Ohio."

Around 700,000 people who got non-fraudulent overpayments have been notified that they can apply for waivers so they don’t have to pay that money back. Of the people who received overpayments, 73,000 were in traditional unemployment payments, and 630,000 were in the PUA program.

Those who have been notified they can apply for waivers. however, only 18% of these people have applied for a waiver.

And during that process, Damschroder said if they're still receiving checks, they are subject to having some of their benefits clawed back while they wait to see if their waiver is granted.

"That's a function of the law and the program design," Damschroder said. "And so all we can say and it's an unsatisfactory answer and we acknowledge that, is to apply for the waiver. And as soon as we have that technology in place, we'll make those adjudication decisions."

The state is still working on the fraud investigation.

Nearly 8,200 people filed first-time jobless claims in Ohio in the last week, the lowest number since the pandemic began. But claims from those who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment and applied for benefits under a federally funded pandemic program are up. Most claims in both those programs are denied.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reports since March 2020, 3.9 million claims were filed for traditional unemployment. 41% were approved, 55% denied, and 72,000 claims are still pending, some for over a year.

Among the 2.7 million claims filed for federal pandemic unemployment assistance, 37% were approved and 44% denied, and 522,000 are still pending, the overwhelming number flagged for fraud, which hit most states. ODJFS says it doesn’t have approval and denial rates from previous years for comparison.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.