(The Center Square) – The Ohio General Assembly, along with the attorney general, continues to attack ongoing unemployment fraud concerns, and the latest effort would move lawmakers into the investigative arena.
A bill expected to be introduced this week from Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chesterland, would establish a joint House-Senate committee to investigate groups or individuals who obtained or helped others receive unemployment benefits through fraud.
Grendell pointed to reports of more than $700 million paid out in fraudulent unemployment claims as a need for more investigation.
“The enormous amount of claims that have been filed has left [the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services] struggling to keep up,” Grendell said. “Due to the lack of pace, we’ve had individuals taking advantage of this broken system we’ve seen over the last year. This is another ramification our state is sadly facing due to the fallout of COVID-19, and I will work to fix it.”
Under Grendell’s plan, the joint committee will have authority to subpoena witnesses and will issue a report 180 days after the committee is created.
The Ohio Senate also passed a resolution late last week that urges the federal government to increase safeguards, security and verification of pandemic unemployment assistance claims in an effort, according to the resolution, to better protect Ohioans’ personal information and ensure taxpayer dollars are being used to provide benefits to those who truly need it.
Both are the latest attempts to combat unemployment fraud, which has grown during the pandemic.
Senate Bill 116 would require unemployment applications to provide proof of identification at a local employment office before state or pandemic unemployment assistance would be paid. It outlines proof as either a driver’s license or any of the two documents required to obtain an Ohio driver’s license that contain the applicants name and address, including a birth certificate, Social Security card and proof of Ohio residency, legal presence or name change.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent a letter in late January to the state’s congressional delegation asking the federal government to protect those who have had fraudulent claims filed in their name.
Yost wants the unemployment income for the taxpayer excluded in a given year until the state decides whether the amount is valid. He also asked the IRS to apply the valid amount to the tax year when it was valid without penalties or interest.
If the state determines an amount is invalid, the state should tell the IRS and help taxpayers with any corrections to modify reported income to the IRS.