TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida made more than $114,000 in erroneous payments to refugees between 2015 and 2017 and needs to return the money to the federal government, an audit released Monday shows.
The state Department of Children and Families, which administers the Refugee Cash Assistance program examined in the audit, attributed the errors to improperly trained workers.
The program helps new immigrants by providing cash during their first eight months in the United States. The program includes limits, such as preventing people from receiving cash assistance through other programs while also getting the Refugee Cash Assistance payments.
Florida has the largest refugee program in the nation. The majority of refugees receiving services in Florida are from Cuba or Haiti.
The Department of Children and Families made nearly $71 million in refugee cash-assistance payments from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2017, which was the period examined in the audit by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Auditors examined a random sample of 100 payments totaling $16,880 during the two-year period. Three of the payments reviewed were unallowable. Extrapolating those findings, auditors estimated the state made $114,504 in erroneous payments during the period. The audit noted that two payments totaling $360 were related to recipients who were not eligible. One payment wasn’t allowable because the beneficiary was also enrolled in the Social Security Income cash-assistance program. Another $180 payment was erroneous because the person refused to adhere to the state’s work requirements.
A third $180 payment was flagged by auditors because paperwork didn’t contain the date the person entered the country. Without proof of the entry date, auditors couldn’t determine whether the person was a refugee or when the eight-month time frame began.
DCF provided the federal auditors additional documentation to support the three payments. Documents were accepted for two of the samples and adjusted the findings of the audit.
DCF didn’t try to recoup the payments because they didn’t hit a minimum $400 minimum benchmark set by the state for recoupment efforts.
DCF said that during the audit period, the state had hired additional, non-specialized staff to assist with processing the large caseload.