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Ohio lawmakers call for transparency, accountability in state’s unemployment system

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 5:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WXIX) - Ohio lawmakers are calling for government transparency and accountability following a FOX19 NOW investigation into the state’s unemployment system.

At issue are unemployed people whose benefits have been stolen by hackers who gained access by changing bank routing numbers and redirecting the funds.

Both the governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services say the system was not hacked or compromised. State Representatives Jeffrey Crossman of Parma and Lisa Sobecki of Toledo disagree.

Rep. Jeffrey Crossman of Parma and Rep. Lisa Sobecki of Toledo in Columbus calling for...
Rep. Jeffrey Crossman of Parma and Rep. Lisa Sobecki of Toledo in Columbus calling for transparency from Ohio Department of Job & Family Services(ohiochannel.com)

“We are getting pushback from the governor’s office and JFS that everything is fine here, there is nothing to see here. But there is clearly a problem here,” Rep. Crossman said.

Crossman and Sobecki say they believe ODJFS is not sharing critical information that would make those victims whole again.

“They have not been open and honest about what is going on. I am not as confident that everything is okay,” Rep. Crossman said.

FOX19 NOW Investigates has spoken to several people who say they had their benefits stolen. In some cases, they claim the operator on the other end of the phone told them the system had been hacked.

ODJFS has repeatedly told FOX19 NOW Investigates there is no evidence their system was ever compromised. On July 1st, FOX19 NOW Investigates filed a public record request with ODJFS seeking emails and text messages between ODJFS leadership about account takeovers or hijacked claims. As of this writing, ODJFS has not acknowledged the request.

“I mean I found out about this in June,” Rep. Crossman said. “I saw that Channel 19 in Cincinnati did a report on this. I saw they asked for documents about this in July and when I spoke to the reporter about this a week or so ago, the reporter had never been responded to.”

In July, ODJFS Executive Director Matt Damschroder said they would give victims who lost money the opportunity to get their benefits, but the full process for victims is not yet in place.

Representative Crossman says he has also put in a similar request with no response. “We do not know the scope of what the problem is. If they have been doing everything they can, show us the records we have asked for.”

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Governor Mike DeWine, said Crossman and Sobecki were pulling a political stunt.

He said the state has never discovered evidence that the system has been hacked. He apologized for the delay in acknowledging FOX19 NOW’s Public Records Request.

As of this writing, ODJFS has not responded to our request for reaction to the claims by Representatives Crossman and Sobecki.

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