Ohio auditor speaks to Marietta business leaders
MARIETTA — Ohio Auditor Keith Faber was not surprised when a local businessman told him Tuesday he’d gotten notices of unemployment filings for three workers who didn’t miss a day during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services got one for Faber himself.
But Faber has been on the job since being elected in 2018 after 18 years in the Ohio General Assembly. He spoke Tuesday at an NFIB meeting in Marietta and one of the main topics was the fight against unemployment fraud and overpayment.
“We’re knee-deep in the middle of that, trying to root out this $2.1 billion problem,” he said prior to the start of the Marietta Area Action Council meeting at the Galley on Second Street.
NFIB, the National Federation of Independent Business, has 21 Area Action Councils in the state that meet quarterly to discuss matters affecting businesses. Tuesday’s was the first in-person meeting for the local council after more than a year of virtual sessions.
“I’m excited to be traveling the state, with this being our first stop,” said NFIB Ohio Executive Director Roger Geiger. “I call these our listening posts.”
Faber’s law office has been a member of the NFIB for 17 years, and he emphasized the importance of small businesses, which provide more than 70 percent of the jobs in the Buckeye State.
“This is where the jobs are; this is where the economy spins; and this is where, frankly, government needs to do better,” he said.
Making government more efficient and combating fraud are two of the main responsibilities of the state auditor, Faber said.
“If I’d have known how much fun this job was, I would have run for auditor a long time ago,” he said.
The disclosure by Ohio Job and Family Services that the unemployment system was subject to hundreds of millions of dollars of fraud led Faber’s office to issue a qualified opinion on the Unemployment Compensation Fund in the most recent annual audit. More than $1.6 billion was paid out due to error by the worker, employer or state official and about $462 million was fraud, according to Allie J. Dumski, press secretary for the auditor’s office.
“We had a lot of claims filed for employees who were legitimate employees who were never unemployed,” Faber said after Marietta Area Action Council Chairman Rick Walters mentioned the three incorrect unemployment notices he received at Dietz, Futrell & Walters.
Faber said there was even one filed in his name.
In response to another question, Faber noted that people not returning to work when a job is offered doesn’t constitute fraud, but certifying that they met the recently reinstituted requirement to look for work when they didn’t would.
“If somebody files the certification that they were looking for a job and they lied, (they) should lose their unemployment benefits,” he said.
Faber said he was told by a Job and Family Services official in the Lima area that a man receiving unemployment turned down a $20-an-hour job offer, saying he wanted to spend time on the lake because his unemployment didn’t run out until September.
“That’s got to end; it’s got to end now,” he said. “The reality is today, everybody can work in Ohio.”