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Government/Politics

More Unemployment Claims Flagged For Possible Fraud, Slowing Down Benefits

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Dan Konik
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Filings for unemployment benefits had been slowly ticking up in January. But the last two weeks of reported numbers show an explosion of claims. And the state’s job and family services agency is now flagging tens of thousands of claims filed in those last two weeks.

Around 50,000 jobless claims were filed in Ohio in the last week of January. But more than 287,000 jobless claims were filed in the first two weeks of February – 140,444 from January 31 to February 6, and 147,002 from February 7 to February 13.

That's triple the expected number after examining the current trend. Jobless filings since the beginning of December had averaged 36,000 since the end of November, according to an analysis of weekly ODJFS reports from the Statehouse News Bureau.

The state noticed the problem in the filings at the beginning of February.

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kim Henderson said fraud in the federally funded pandemic unemployment assistance or PUA program is happening in traditional unemployment too.

“That steep increase and other economic indicators paint quite a different picture of the state's economic situation and makes clear that criminals are targeting not only PUA but also traditional unemployment," Henderson said.

Henderson said when comparing those numbers to Ohio’s 5.5% unemployment rate for December, which she said is "solid", is another suggestion of fraud.

77,000 claims in the last two weeks have been flagged and more are likely, which Henderson admits will cause delays in benefits. Henderson announced last week that 44,000 claims had been flagged. This week, another 33,000 were added to the total.

Fraud has been a concern in unemployment programs in many states. The state has also announced a private contractor will be helping ODJFS with its processing system.

Ohio Auditor Keith Faber has also said he's working on an audit of the unemployment process. But his office has issued no report yet.

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