PUTNAM COUNTY — May is Public Assistance Fraud Awareness Month in Ohio, and the Putnam County Job and Family Service office is spreading the word that “Fraud Costs All of Us.”

For the second year in a row Putnam County Job and Family Services ranked in the top 10 in the State for increase in total collections. Individuals who mislead caseworkers or provide false information on an application for benefits account for a very small percentage of the funding disbursed, but the department takes even the smallest fraud cases very seriously.

The entirety of the fraud collection in Putnam County is from the SNAP program. The Putnam County Job and Family Fraud Unit collected $30,915 in 2017. This collection amount is up from $19,434 in 2016 and represents a 59 percent increase in collections. In 2016, $2,739,510 in SNAP benefits were disbursed in Putnam County, and $2,534,815 in 2017. This means that less than one percent (0.71 percent to be exact) of SNAP benefits disbursed in Putnam County in 2016 accounted as fraudulent, and 1.22 percent in 2017.

Again, the collection amount is from the SNAP program, but there is a potential to collect TANF, Medicaid and Day Care over payments as well. The agency works off of tips from the community as well as other leads that are obtained during routine interviews with customers. If an investigation warrants help with law enforcement, cases are referred to the Ohio Investigative Unit, under the direction of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Regarding this increase in collections, Suzy Wischmeyer, Director of the Putnam County Job & Family Services says, “I am very pleased with our staff efforts put forth to accomplish this goal. An added benefit to the agency is that a portion of the overpayments collected can be used locally by the agency where we have funding deficiencies.”

Applicants and recipients of public assistance programs are encouraged to report their circumstances accurately and timely in order to avoid facing potential criminal charges, program disqualification and repayment of benefits issued improperly. Residents of Putnam County may report suspected public assistance fraud by calling the Putnam County Overpayment and Recovery Unit at 419-538-4580 or going to www.jfs.ohio.gov/fraud.

Beyond Putnam County, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services disbursed about $2.2 billion in SNAP food assistance, $238 million in Ohio Works First cash assistance and nearly $632 million in child care provider subsidies in 2017.