500 signatures reached
To: Governor Mike DeWine, Kimberly Hall ODJFS, Ohio House of Representatives, Ohio Senate
Ohio PUA Erroneous Fraud Resolution NOW
We the undersigned demand immediate reversal of the erroneous fraud claims being set upon the receipients of the Ohio PUA extended unemployment assistance program. We need to receive our benefits with NO FURTHER DELAYS and expect this issue for every claim to be expedited to ensure of the 226,000+, that all legitimate claimants are paid including arrears within 7 calendar days. Failure to do so will result in homelessness and hunger for which the State of Ohio will be otherwise held responsible.
We further insist on a full investigation into the ODJFS handling of this issue and Ms. Hall herself and her dereliction of duty to the individuals and families of Ohio whom she was designated to protect.
We insist that immediately and for the duration that Ms. Kimberly Hall, Director of the ODJFS be placed on Administrative Leave *WITHOUT* pay pending investigation into this matter, and a QUALIFIED and compassionate successor be appointed to correct this inappropriate course of action.
We insist that the State of Ohio formulate and execute an action plan to prevent further issues from interfering with the benefit payment systems without prior notice and a method to expedite issues prior to the stopping of said benefits.
Why is this important?
On March 29, 2020, the state of Ohio shut down. The US Government passed the CARES act to ensure that US Citizens had a necessary financial lifeline to pay their bills in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic. The state of Ohio's unemployment system was grossly outdated and lacked the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the federal CARES act to supply Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to millions of Ohioans. As a result, there was a massive delay in providing assistance to those individuals and families who needed it the most. The tip waged, the contract employed, the freelance, gig-workers and the self-employed.
These are some of Ohio's lowest paid workforce. The Ohio PUA system did not go live until May 12th, over a month after the shut down, a time when many fell egregiously behind on their bills and struggled to provide. They were assured that back pay would be given. On July 15, the ODJFS erroneously and maliciously flagged over 226,000 Ohioan's PUA claims as fraud, most of which are erroneous flags as these individuals did provide their proof of income, proof of identity and banking information upon filing and these claims were not approved until they did so.
The Ohio Unemployment system was already exhaustively overwhelmed by the sheer number of claims which they are responsible to process. Now hundreds of thousands of workers and their families have had their only source of income taken from them without notice, without cause, and without explanation. Calls to the PUA hotline went unanswered as did calls to the adjudication centers. Individuals who did manage to reach a representative were given a plethora of flimsy excuses and outright lies as to what was going on.
The reality is, they didn't know either and could offer no help whatsoever. The amount of misinformation provided by the agency was staggering. Calls and letters to the governor, the state representatives, and the news media went ignored for over a week.
According to a recent interview with the news media, Kimberly Hall of the ODJFS finally addressed the situation and claimed that these 226,000 individuals are legitimate cases of fraud. She employed this excuse to justify not paying benefits to already struggling Ohio families in the midst of a global pandemic. There is no logical or conscionable reasoning for Ms. Hall's handling of this matter. There is no logical or conscionable reasoning for withholding benefits to individuals who have already submitted their information upon applying for assistance. Above all else, there is no logical or conscionable reasoning for the director of the ODJFS to be so concerned with fraud in the middle of a global pandemic as to go so far as to erroneously deny benefits to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who are the most at risk for homelessness due to this crisis. With the abundance of resources available, to say that there was no other way to detect and address fraud in this system is not only irresponsible, but an immense dereliction of her duty to the people of Ohio to whom she is responsible for assisting.
The reasons Ms. Hall has cited do not hold up. Her reasons were that individuals were having their personal bank accounts compromised, particularly online banking institutions and prepaid card systems. It is the responsibility of the individual and their financial institution to investigate fraudulent transactions to their personal bank accounts. It is the agency's duty to ensure those individuals are paid on time. Stopping the payments injures innocent citizens and does nothing to punish the criminals. Other reasons cited were failure to prove identity or income, to which each application could not be approved without, and if so, that responsibility falls on those who approved the claims without verifying the information from the start. The excuses are invalid, there is no justification in the world that the state of Ohio or the ODJFS can provide which can justify the course of action that they used to address this matter and their own incompetence.
The already overburdened unemployment system cannot support the abundance of claims it currently has. We've spent 81 million on this failed system and now will require many more millions of dollars to adequately train and employ enough workers to facilitate the correction of Ms. Hall's incompetence. In the meantime, 226,000+ Ohioans are at risk of being homeless by next week when their rent or mortgages are unable to be paid. Children will go hungry as the lifeline providing for them has been unceremoniously cut without remorse or resolution. The freeze on evictions and foreclosures has been lifted and the food banks are empty. Ohio has failed it's most at risk populations by the choices and political motivations of one individual. This issue requires IMMEDIATE resolution to those affected. If Ms. Hall and the ODJFS is incapable of fulfilling that resolution, then further action by the State of Ohio to ensure that IMMEDIATE action is taken to prevent homelessness, hunger and poverty to those impacted by this crisis.
The people of Ohio deserve answers. They deserve to be paid. They deserve a state that is aimed to see them succeed in the midst of this crisis. In the midst of a pandemic, there is a responsibility to ensure the livelihoods of ALL Ohioans, this was the very PURPOSE of the federal CARES act and the PUA. Ms. Hall has utilized this opportunity to facilitate an unnecessary fraud investigation against the people of Ohio with regard to their financial institutions. It is the responsibility of the individual and their financial institution to determine fraud, and is a gross overreach of the ODJFS Director. The State of Ohio has ignored its citizens for too long in this matter and immediate resolution is now sought.