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Ohio Paid Out Nearly $3.4 Billion in Unemployment Overpayments

cash and economic impact payment check
J.J. Gouin
The state is totaling the massive amount of money it paid Ohioans through legitimate unemployment claims, as well as more money it paid to fraudulent claims, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The unemployment system has been a "bullseye for scammers," according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder.

Ohio paid nearly $3.4 billion in overpayments to people getting unemployment since March of 2020. And while the state is still counting up all the money that was overpaid, that total doesn’t 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. $478 million was paid to fraudulent claims in both programs.

Here's the breakdown:

  • $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. 73,000 are in traditional unemployment, and 630,000 are in the PUA program.

But of those who have been notified they can apply for waivers, only 18% have.

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

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.