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TribBlog: Report: Dead Texans Could Get Child Care Checks

A new report details an undercover investigation of federally funded child care subsidy programs by the GAO in five states, including Texas. The GAO determined that the Texas program was vulnerable to fraud.

Even if you're dead in Texas, you could qualify for a federal child care subsidy, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The report, released this month, details an undercover investigation by the GAO in five states, including Texas. GAO officials posed as parents applying for federal subsidies with falsified documents. Some states paid the parents, who managed to gain approval and bill the government. While it didn’t quite get to that point in Texas, the GAO still determined that the state was vulnerable to fraud based on two case studies.

In both cases, the fictitious parents provided photocopies of Social Security cards, pay stubs, birth certificates and a driver’s license. Case workers did not ask to see the original documents. In the second case study, the fake parent used records from a dead person. That pseudo-parent was approved by Texas Workforce Solutions, which did not verify the information. However, the Department of Family and Protective Services eventually nixed the application after making several unsuccessful attempts to contact the parent.

The GAO selected Texas — along with Illinois, Michigan, New York and Washington — for the study because the state received more than $100 million in child care subsidy funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those states do not require child care providers to be fingerprinted, and they don't conduct site visits.

Texas officials told the GAO that while they plan to implement new electronic billing systems, they have concerns about increased costs for new forms of verification. The state is already asking agencies to cut their budgets by 10 percent because of an expected deficit of up to $21 billion next year.

The money that the Texas Workforce Commission receives from the federal stimulus for the subsidies is set to run out at the end of the year.

The DFPS, which regulates child care facilities in Texas, also recently declined to adopt stricter regulations for staffing at child care centers, citing increased costs to child care providers. Some child care providers said that, if the proposed standards went into effect, they might have to reduce the number of children they take under the subsidy program. There are already some parents on a waiting list for the program.

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