Ohio auditor: ODJFS officials delayed disclosure of unemployment fraud


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The department responsible for unemployment benefits delayed disclosing the number of fraudulent claims it was receiving for months during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ohio’s state auditor.

State Auditor Keith Faber told cleveland.com on Wednesday that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services did not report any unusual number of fraud claims or payments from June to December 2020 during routine audits.

In February this year, then-department head Kimberly Henderson said the state had paid $332 million in fraudulent claims last year.

“It was really, really disappointing to me that they had failed to make the required disclosures,” Faber told the newspaper.

Henderson stepped down in March to take another job and was replaced by Matt Damschroder, who is now interim director of the department. In a statement, Damschroder told the newspaper that since he joined the department, “I made it clear that our agency needs to be transparent, cooperative, and responsive to the Auditor of State with absolutely no exceptions.”

Henderson testified in front of lawmakers for hours about issues with unemployment benefits, Dan Tierney, a spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine told the newspaper.

“The idea that this administration was not transparent, not being out there or providing access on these issues – we would vehemently disagree with any such characterization,” Tierney said.

In addition to paying fraudulent claims, the department said last fall it also incorrectly overpaid some qualified applicants. That caused pain, frustration and complaints about the department’s customer service and processes when it tried to recoup those payments.

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