JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — An audit found the Missouri Department of Social Services mistakenly paid more than $19 million to child care facilities to subsidize low-income families and should refund the federal government.
The funds distributed through federal grants didn't meet the government's requirements for record-keeping, the Columbia Missourian reported.
Subsidized child care is funded through Social Security and state and federal block grants for low-income families who are in school, working or seeking employment. States provide vouchers to families or pay eligible child care providers directly. Missouri requires child care providers to maintain accurate attendance records for their invoices to the state.
The audit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General looked at a sample of 128 months of subsidized child care reports out of more than 8,000 total months of records between July 2013 and June 2015. The total child care subsidies Missouri paid out in that time was $102.5 million, which includes $70.8 million in federal funds.
The audit found all but four of those months contained inadequate attendance records and some cases had no documentation of attendance or the dates were not noted. Parents did not always sign the attendance sheets and the state didn't always get attendance records from child care providers that went out of business.
Auditors estimated from the sample that $19.1 million of the federal payments didn't meet eligibility requirements and should be refunded. Auditors also recommended the state strengthen its oversight practices to make sure child care providers keep accurate records.
The Social Services Department agreed to oversight improvements but disputed the refund amount. Department officials said they're conducting their own review.