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Refunds should be based on ability to repay

November 30, 2011
The Advertiser-Tribune

Government certainly should crack down on those who obtain money from it improperly. But harassing people, often the elderly, who received benefits improperly years ago - through no fault of their own - may be going too far.

Thousands of Ohioans recently were notified they would have to repay welfare and food stamp benefits the state improperly granted them, sometimes decades ago. More attention to records and new technology makes it possible to identify such overpayments.

In some cases, thousands of dollars were involved. In others, amounts were less than $100. Again, it was the state's fault, not that of recipients, that too much money was handed out.

But, after scaring the dickens out of hundreds of people who simply don't have the money to make such repayments, the state has dropped its collection effort.

That may be going too far. Some people may be able to make the repayments with no trouble. They certainly should be told to send checks to Columbus.

But many of those involved in the fiasco are older Ohioans living on fixed incomes. Even a few dollars is asking too much of them.

In such cases, state officials indeed should admit it was their mistake, and drop attempts to collect the overpayments.



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