Legislation would curb Ohio unemployment fraud

By J.D. Davidson - The Center Square

COLUMBUS — As legitimate and fraudulent unemployment claims rose over the past year, and with additional federal jobless assistance most likely on the way, Ohio lawmakers have introduced legislation they hope cracks down on system abuse.

If the bill passes and is signed into law, Ohioans would be required to provide proof of identification at a local employment office before state or pandemic unemployment assistances would be paid.

Senate Bill 116 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 is currently in the midst of a fraud crisis. Millions of dollars in unemployment claims have been paid out to individuals seeking to defraud the state and leaving those who need it most without a lifeline,” said Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, the bill’s sponsor. “We must ensure that our limited resources are going to the Ohioans who truly need our support.”

The Ohio Job and Family Services recently reported of the 140,444 new claims filed between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6, 44,000 claims were flagged as fraudulent. Ohio has paid out at least $330 million in fraudulent unemployment claims.

Fraudulent claims have been filed using the names of Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, along with Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, who signed on as a co-sponsor.

“As someone who had unemployment claims fraudulently filed in my name, I know first-hand the frustrations many people are feeling,” Roegner said. “This must come to a stop, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the unemployment system works more securely and efficiently for the people of Ohio who need it.”

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.

By J.D. Davidson

The Center Square