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Ohioans Who Lose Jobless Benefits To Scammers Can Apply To Get Money Restored

photo of ODFJS sign
Dan Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau

Ohioans who lost money when their unemployment accounts were taken over by scammers can start applying to get that money back on Friday.

That’s also when the state will start processing requests from people who got a share of $3 billion in non-fraudulent overpayments who have asked to be excused from paying back that extra money.

People whose unemployment benefits accounts were taken over can call 877-644-6562. Affidavits will be mailed out, which need to be filled out, notarized and emailed, faxed or mailed back.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will reach out to 3,100 claimants who may have been victims, but there’s no estimate on how many people there might be.

The state says its computers weren’t hacked, but has said criminals got unauthorized access to accounts and changed the banking information to reroute and steal the money.

ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder called account take overs "something new" in an interview for "The State of Ohio" in August. "We've identified technology that we have put in place that we believe has reduced and mitigated that activity. But certainly we want to make sure that there's a process in place and are building the technology again for our systems, and for individuals who did experience an account takeover to be able to apply and be made whole."

And there's also some long-awaited movement on the question of how people who got non-fraudulent overpayments of unemployment benefits can avoid having to pay that money back, since it was sent to them through no fault of their own.

700,000 Ohioans got the overpayments, but only 155,000, or around 22%, have applied for waivers to avoid paying that money back. The processing of those waivers starts Friday too.

Many of those who got the overpayments and are still receiving benefits or have applied for new jobless benefits are seeing those checks reduced or stopped so the overpaid funds can be paid back. Damschroder said last month that's "a function of the law and the program design", though he added he knows that's "an unsatisfactory answer".

But there hasn't been movement on the lawsuit that seeks to bring back the $300 weekly checks to unemployed Ohioans.

Former Attorney General Marc Dann has filed suit against the state's decision to end its participation in the program in late June. Dann says the cases he filed have been consolidated by a Franklin County judge, and he's hoping the Ohio Supreme Court will take the case. He's argued that Gov. Mike DeWine didn't have the authority from lawmakers to refuse the maximum jobless benefits offered by the federal government. But the state has said Dann's reading of the law is wrong.

The program to send out those checks ended on Labor Day. And while the Biden administration said it wouldn't extend the program, it's suggested states that have high unemployment use federal funds to provide those checks.

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