Coronavirus: ODJFS investigating fraud within PUA program, thousands affected

OHIO — The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has suspended unemployment payments for many Ohioans. This comes as the department said they are investigating fraud issues within the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program.

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Susan Cottingim, who lives in Tipp City, said she relies on financial help from this program since losing her job because of COVID-19. Cottingim said she was getting unemployment benefits until last week. When she checked her account, she saw two lines stating ‘fraud’ and her status was listed as ‘pending.’ This caused her to miss a payment.

“I am exhausted. I am exhausted with this fight. I would rather be working,” Cottingim said. “No one has a clear-cut answer as to what’s happening. We’ve been told it’s a glitch. We have been told there has been compromise, that there was a breach. No one has answers.”She is not alone. Dozens of people have reached out to Newscenter 7 and reporter Katy Andersen stating they are dealing with the same problem.

“I had a rep say something about 267,000 people were affected,” Cottingim said. “Then this week, there were more people were thrown into that group. They got their money last week, but this week had fraud show up on their accounts.”

Newscenter 7 reached out to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, asking the department why this is happening and how many people are affected.

Their Director of Communications, Bret Crow, replied, “All I can say right now is that we are investigating potential fraud in the PUA program. We will provide details when we know more.”

This isn’t the first time the program has faced problems. In May, a data breach into the unemployment system exposed applicants personal information including names, social security numbers and street addresses.

This week, Cottingim said she called ODJFS for help with her account.

“She just flat out told me there was a breach, to sit back and be patient and wait for my paperwork to come,” Cottingim said. “They could have devised a better way to do fraud investigation without locking us out of our money.”

Newscenter 7 will continue to follow this story and will provide updates on our website and mobile app.

Katy Andersen

I joined WHIO's team in September 2019. You can catch me on News Center 7 when I anchor Saturdays at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and Noon, Sundays at 6 and 11 p.m., and while I am reporting during the week.