Oops. We’re not really allowed to call it “welfare” anymore. That might hurt someone’s feelings. Back in the 90’s Wisconsin changed the name from “welfare” to “W2″ (which stands for Wisconsin Works – ha ha ha….)
Wisconsin has long been known as a great place to collect welfare. We’ve had Illinois residents crossing the border for years to collect benefits here. It’s always been easy, so long as they have a Wisconsin address they can use.
I’ve been telling people for years that operating a daycare center that takes in W2 children is lucrative. And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is running a series on just how lucrative it can be. Fraud is rampant, although it seems like state officials are being a little less than forthcoming with the data which proves this.
Here’s just how easy it is to defraud the state out of child care dollars:
- Get someone to “verify” that you have a job. Real documentation is not necessary. A simple phone call or note on a scrap of paper will do.
- Don’t worry about anyone verifying that you filed were actually paid for the “work” you supposedly did at your “job.” I mean, it’s not like the state actually receives tax forms from employers (W-2 wage statements) at the end of the year and could verify that you were actually paid for work. (Oh wait… yes they could. I guess they just don’t.)
- Enroll your kid in child care. It doesn’t have to be a real provider of childcare. It can be your sister who lives with you.
- Don’t worry about anyone verifying that your child is actually attending daycare while you’re (not) working. It simply doesn’t happen.
Yes, believe it or not, this is actually how it happens. The Journal Sentinel reports:
Yet inside, a young woman has tapped into a home-based money-making operation that netted her and her three sisters more than half a million in taxpayer dollars since 2006.
And they did it with the blessing of the state.
All four had been in-home child-care providers. Collectively they have 17 children. For years, the government has paid them to stay home and care for each other’s children.
Nothing illegal about it under the rules of Wisconsin Shares, the decade-old child-care assistance program designed alongside Wisconsin’s welfare-to-work program.
That’s right. Four women living together with 17 children. Getting money from the state to “take care of each other’s children” while none of them actually works at a real job. Totaling over $540,000 paid to these women in less than 3 years.
Here’s more from the article on how easy it is to game the system:
- Sisters or other relatives can stay home, swap kids and receive taxpayer dollars. The four Racine sisters took in as much as $540,000 in taxpayer dollars in less than three years, mostly to watch each other’s kids.
- Rules allow parents to be employed by child-care providers and enroll their children at the same place. At some centers, children of employees make up the majority of kids in day care. In one Milwaukee location, an employer and parents are accused of teaming up to bilk the system out of more than $360,000.
- Child-care subsidy recipients have been allowed to work for almost any type of business. Payments were made when moms claimed to work ironing a man’s shirts, drying fruit and selling artwork they made during art class.
- The government pays for child care while parents sleep. Counties have no way to monitor whether parents are actually sleeping while their kids are in day care.
And it’s not like this scam is any secret. Here’s more from the article:
In October, the Milwaukee County DA’s office filed charges against the owner of Tender Moments Day Care Center on W. Capitol Drive.
The complaint alleges the owner, Shartavia Adams, and her mother, Bernice Watson, bilked the system out of more than $360,000 from September 2006 through October 2007. It was the first time in the last five years that prosecutors in southeastern Wisconsin have brought charges of suspected child-care fraud. And it is the largest such case in Milwaukee County history.
“There’s no reason to believe that was an isolated case,” said David Feiss, a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the case.
Watson and Adams allegedly recruited women to work at the day care center. The women would then enroll their children in the center – bringing in roughly $150 to $220 per week per child. The children seldom attended and their mothers rarely worked, according to the complaint. But Adams billed the state more than $2 million in 2006-’07.
As one state worker put it in a memo to colleagues, Bernice Watson is “known in the child-care community as the ‘day-care pimp.’?”
And people wonder why we have a budget deficit in Wisconsin? We’re wasting billions of dollars per year. If we’re going to be spending taxpayer dollars on programs like welfare, the least our government can do is put some checks and balances in place to make sure our money is not being given to people committing fraud.
And it’s not like any of the cases cited in the article were that hard to discover. Has anyone thought of cross-checking the addresses at which “daycares” supposedly operate? Might it be questionable to have more than one daycare at the same address?
Has anyone considered that in-home “daycares” might be more likely to be engaged in fraud? Might it be wise to give greater scrutiny to any “daycare” at a residential address?
Has anyone wondered why so many women with children in the W2 daycare system supposedly work at the daycare centers they send their children to? Even though this can be a legitimate option under the system, hasn’t anyone thought that these situations should give rise to a little more scrutiny because of the obvious opportunity for abuse?