- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Department of Human Services is conducting more than a dozen investigations into the state-funded child care subsidy program for low-income families, according to officials.

Legislators recently gave the department broad powers to investigate and prosecute those defrauding the program. State investigators say they’ve uncovered a pattern in which some child care providers exploit poor families to get cash assistance from the state by recruiting low-income parents as employees on the condition they enroll their children using public subsidies.

Beginning this month, inspectors with the department have the authority to recoup payments from those who fail to document the services they provided. Child care centers also will be required to report to the state when a child enrolled in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, which subsidizes expenses for about 30,000 low-income children per month, has failed to show up for more than half of the days in a month.

“We hope that providers are going to wake up and notice that it’s not business as usual anymore for billing child care assistance,” Department of Human Services Inspector General Jerry Kerber said. “There is a whole new level of accountability.”

Kerber declined to comment on the pending investigations, but told the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1dLKq5R ) that “significant dollars are involved.” Some child care centers bill the state more than $100,000 each month, he said.

Before the reforms, the state’s 87 county prosecutors, who often lacked the staff and resources to pursue complicated cases, were responsible for the prosecution and investigation of fraud. This allowed child care centers to continue billing the state for services when there was little or no documentation proving the children actually attended.

There were 4,336 Minnesota families on the waiting list for Child Care Assistance Program benefits as of May, and more than half of those families live in Hennepin County, state records show.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com


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