Hamilton County to hold web chat on public assistance fraud

Matt Miller - email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX 19) - Hamilton County residents who suspect someone of illegally receiving public assistance are encouraged to report the abuse during a special online chat about public assistance fraud.

The web chat is scheduled for March 22nd at 10am.

The chat is another step in an ongoing effort launched by Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann in January. He created the Hamilton County Coalition to Stop Fraud, Scams & Abuse, a group of representatives from the business community, law enforcement, social service agencies and local non-profits who use their professional experience to combat local fraud and scams.

Hartmann assigned each month in 2011 a theme and one theme for March is 'Public Assistance Fraud." "This is taxpayer money and we cannot stand idly by while someone illegally takes money out of the pockets of taxpayers," Hartmann said. "I encourage anyone who suspects their neighbor, friend or relative of fraud to report it. When dishonest people take advantage of a system that is designed to help those down on their luck, it is shameful."

Personal information will not be posted during the chat. If someone reports specific information about an individual, that information will go to the investigators, but will not be posted. However, the investigators will answer general questions about fraud in the open public chat forum.

The Department of Job and Family Services is responsible for determining eligibility for public assistance programs such as Ohio Works First, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Hamilton County is currently serving record populations in some of its public assistance programs, with 153,000 Medicaid recipients and 139,000 food assistance recipients. That is one in six Hamilton County residents.

"While the overwhelming majority of people we assist are in tough situations and are eligible for the services we provide, we are not naive enough to believe that, even with all our checks and balances, we are able to root out everyone who is illegally receiving benefits," said Moira Weir, director of the Job and Family Services Department. "We are, sometimes, only as good as the information we are provided and some dishonest people manage to find ways to elude detection."

To participate, in the chat, visit www.hcjfs.org and click on the link posted at HCJFS.

Also, an e-mail will be sent to subscribers to the HCJFS Update newsletter and to followers of the agency on Facebook and Twitter (hamiltoncojfs). To sign up for the newsletter, visit www.hcjfs.org.

For those who cannot participate, the Department of Job and Family Services operates a 24-hour fraud reporting hotline, 513-946-7542.

The Department of Job and Family Services, which handles child support collection, child welfare and public assistance programs, regularly holds public chats on topics such as child support, child care, employment services, etc. The agency also offers daily case-specific chat opportunities with caseworkers in Child Support and Public Assistance via the agency website, www.hcjfs.org.

The Department of Job and Family Services administers federal, state and local programs for those in need. The Department helps with local child protection, elderly protection, child care, child support enforcement, workforce development, cash assistance, food assistance and Medicaid disbursement. Servicing Hamilton County since 1947, the Department helps hundreds of thousands each year and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation, an international, independent, not-forprofit child and family service accrediting organization.

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