Minnesota House GOP proposes crackdown on child care fraud
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Republican minority in the Minnesota House unveiled an extensive proposal Monday to crack down on fraud in the state’s troubled Child Care Assistance Program and other public programs.
The bill came in response to a recent report by the nonpartisan legislative auditor that found significant fraud in the child care program, which helps low-income parents afford daycare while they work or attend school. Auditor James Nobles said his investigators couldn’t reliably estimate how much money has been defrauded from the program, but they think it was more than the $5 million to $6 million that prosecutors have been able to prove.
The 45-page GOP proposal includes increased penalties for fraud, stronger controls on child care providers to prevent fraud, more tools for investigators and prosecutors to bring fraudsters to justice, eliminating eligibility for providers who commit fraud, and stronger oversight including the auditor’s recommendation for an independent inspector general to oversee the program.
Rep. Mary Franson, the lead Republican on the House early childhood committee, said it’s a mix of nearly 50 provisions, some of which came from bills introduced earlier in the session, including more than a dozen from bills introduced by majority Democrats.
The lead Republican on the House Government Operations Committee, Rep. Nick Zerwas, said House Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz have done too little to address the auditor’s findings and recommendations at a time when they’re proposing higher spending and taxes.
“This is an issue causing outrage from the public, and we are demanding that they show the public they are taking this issue seriously, and not ask Minnesotans to pay more until they can demonstrate that they are at least trying to root out fraud within the system,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Dave Pinto, who chairs the early childhood panel, said the House Democratic budget framework announced Monday covers a number of proposals to ensure the integrity of the child care program.
“We take any misuse of public funds in any program seriously, and certainly a program that’s dedicated to assisting families with child care, assisting kids in getting off to a great start, it’s very important,” he said.