Wednesday, December 09, 2009

MJS- You did good

I am normally the first one to blast the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel when they ignore a serious problem as they try to protect their own politicians.

It is only fair to point out when they have done a good job. The MJS brought to light the rampant fraud taking place in the state's taxpayer subsidized child care program.

The number of children in the state's subsidized child-care program hit a 14-month low in October and November - dropping by roughly 6% from the same time last year and by nearly 8% since September.

The cost per child has also dropped, a fact state regulators attributed Tuesday to the recent crackdown on fraudulent parents and providers.

In recent weeks, regulators cut public funding to more than 130 child-care providers suspected of scamming the state's troubled Wisconsin Shares program. The program was designed to help low-income parents get jobs by covering the cost of child care.

In an ongoing investigation extending more than a year, The Journal Sentinel has uncovered rampant fraud within the $350 million-a-year program as well as shoddy oversight.

In August, the newspaper published a story detailing how one provider amassed nearly $3 million in taxpayer dollars, and built a mansion in Menomonee Falls with an indoor swimming pool and indoor basketball court - all while regulators ignored numerous warning signs that she was conning the system.

The story, coupled with another one revealing how government has frequently overlooked fraud in the program, triggered a flurry of responses from lawmakers and regulators. New laws have been enacted, stiffer rules implemented and several child-care providers have since been criminally charged.

"What that means is that providers are more accurately reporting children coming to their child-care centers," said Reggie Bicha, secretary of the Department of Children and Families, of the drop in numbers. "The deterrent effect is beginning to pay off."

The state issued $23.9 million in child-care subsidies last month to cover the cost of care for 56,550 children. That compares with $28.2 million in November 2008 for care for 60,417 children, according to data released by the state.


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