... From: Rep.Kerkman Subject: Capitol Insight, Feb.27,2009, Vol.7 To: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Friday,Mar 9, 2009 1 of 1View Source
--- On Fri, 2/27/09, Rep.Kerkman <Rep.Kerkman@...> wrote:
From: Rep.Kerkman <Rep.Kerkman@...>
Subject: Capitol Insight, Feb.27,2009, Vol.7
Date: Friday, February 27, 2009, 9:48 AM
State Representative Samantha Kerkman Capitol Insight 66th Assembly District Update - Feb. 27, 2009, Special Edition, Vol. 7
Cleaning Up the Wisconsin Shares Program
Many of you may be aware of the investigation conducted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel into the Wisconsin Shares program last fall and the fraud that was identified in the process. Since then, the problems with the program and how they need to be addressed have become one of the top priorities of the Legislature this session, particularly for the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, on which I serve. The committee recently voted unanimously to launch a full-scope audit of the Wisconsin Shares program in order to combat the fraud that has plagued the system over the past decade, costing taxpayers more than $13 million in overpayments.
Wisconsin Shares was launched in 1997 as a welfare reform initiative in order to help low-income families and single parents with the cost of childcare so they could acquire and retain jobs. The federal government provides 2/3rds of the funding needed for Wisconsin Shares while the state government pays the remaining portion of the $340 million annual cost. The program subsidizes child care for children from households with an annual gross income at or below 185% of the poverty line until they reach the age of 13, or 19 if they have special needs. Altogether, about 34,000 families statewide rely on Wisconsin Shares subsidies.
Since Wisconsin Shares was created, however, certain participants in the program discovered loopholes that enabled them to cheat the system. Combined with a lack of oversight by county and state officials and poor record-keeping, these participants scammed the taxpayers by making false claims regarding their employment and ultimately received $13.7 million in child care overpayments. Meanwhile, the program is running a $20 million deficit that Governor Doyle intends to fill by using federal stimulus money.
To combat further abuse of the program, my colleagues on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and I recently held a public hearing with State Auditor Jan Mueller. The purpose of the hearing was to pursue an audit of Wisconsin Shares that will reveal where the loopholes are in the system and how they should be closed. This will be conducted in two phases. The first phase of the audit will review current trends within the program, examine how eligibility is determined, review county and state policies, and examine how effective current investigative practices have been in identifying fraud. According to Mueller, this phase should be completed by June. The second phase will examine the requirements that must be met in order to become a child care provider, and how the providers are inspected. Violations committed by the providers and the subsequent actions taken by the state and counties will be analyzed before measures intended to improve the quality of the program will be put in place.
I am pleased to say that the audit has the support of eighty-six legislators from both sides of the aisle. At a time when many of our hardest-working constituents are struggling and with state unemployment funds being on the verge of falling into a deficit, we simply cannot afford further abuse of taxpayer-funded programs like Wisconsin Shares. Upon completion, it is my hope that the audit will significantly improve Wisconsin Shares so that it benefits only those who legitimately use the program and punishes those who don’t.
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