COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Brandy Lee is a stay-at-home mom in Columbus. So, she was surprised, and confused, when she received dozens of unemployment claims in the mail, listing her as the employer.
“The first big stack was about 50. And then, after that, it just kept coming in like five to seven a day,” said Lee.
Around the same time, Susan said four letters from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services were sent to her mother’s vacant home on the north side — all addressed to different people.
“When I opened these, I was concerned,” said Susan.
Inside were debit cards, containing thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits.
“You could understand maybe one mismailing,” said Susan.
Worried about what to do, both women said they’ve tried repeatedly to contact ODJFS.
“It is like nearly impossible to get through to them. It just says they’re busy, to call back later,” said Lee.
“Couldn’t get through, couldn’t get through. So, then I called Better Call 4,” said Susan.
And Better Call 4 went to the director of the department, Kimberly Henderson, who said both women, are victims of fraud.
“We do know that there is very likely international engagement, but then there is stateside fraudulent activity, fraudsters, impacting our system as well,” said Henderson.
Overwhelming an already overloaded system. Which is, in part, why real people who need real help, aren’t able to get it. But Henderson said the department is now working with the state to make some changes.
“The director and I started talking about bringing in some private sector experts to form a high level, rapid response partnership,” said Governor Mike DeWine.
During a coronavirus update, the governor said a team of banking and insurance experts will now assist ODJFS in answering every call, processing claims, and addressing fraud.
“Frankly, I’m looking forward to, and the team is looking forward to the reinforcements,” said Henderson. “We can continue to try to improve our response in this. Just acknowledging just, the incredible nature of what we’re facing.”
To get some additional help for Lee and Susan, Better Call 4 reached out to other state officials who have been vocal about Ohio’s unemployment system.
Congressman Steve Stivers responded with this statement:
The fact of the matter is that Ohio’s unemployment system has been woefully inadequate for decades now, and it was completely unprepared for the stress test that the pandemic has caused, leaving millions of Ohioans in limbo. I’ve had multiple conversations with both Governor DeWine and the director of Ohio Family Jobs and Services, and while I’m grateful that they are taking this problem seriously and making efforts to fix the system, more must be done to get the resources to Ohioans that were made available by Congress. If you are having a problem with unemployment benefits or believe you may be the victim of unemployment-related fraud, please call my office at (614) 771-4968.