OLA report finds no evidence of link between childcare fraud and terrorism

The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released its report this week regarding fraud in Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). The report responds to accusations voiced in a Fox 9 News article last year, which claimed that daycare providers in Minnesota’s childcare system were defrauding the state for $100 million by illegally collecting CCAP subsidies for far more children than they were actually caring for or, in some cases, at facilities that supposedly cared for no children at all. Fox 9 based its article on the claims of a former Department of Human Services (DHS) investigator, who also alleged that some of the stolen money was being sent out of Minnesota to fund terrorist organizations abroad, specifically targeting Somali immigrant communities – despite a lack of direct evidence to support such a connection.

While maintaining that childcare fraud in Minnesota is a significant issue, the OLA’s report found no evidence in support of the $100 million claims made by the former DHS staff member, and it also found no specific link between fraudulent childcare money and terrorist organizations in Somalia, as alleged by Fox 9. Furthermore, the figure of $100 million is likely to be vastly inflated. In the last several years, the DHS has shut down 16 daycare centers due to fraud out of a total of nearly 1,700 facilities in Minnesota, and $100 million would account for nearly half of all CCAP funding. Past prosecution of these fraudulent childcare facilities has totaled between $5 million and $6 million, though the OLA report suspects that there are likely significant other unproven amounts, as CCAP remains largely vulnerable to potential fraud.

Members of the Muslim Coalition of ISAIAH, alongside childcare providers and parents from Kids Count on Us, held a press conference this week in response to the findings of the report. Speakers accused several Republican legislators, including the 2018 Republican candidate for governor, of perpetuating the unsubstantiated and untrue rumors that CCAP fraud from Somali daycares was funding terrorist organizations abroad. Members of both organizations reproached legislators for advancing Islamophobic attacks upon immigrant communities without evidence, as well as for distracting from the crucial issue of the wellbeing and early education of children in the state of Minnesota. Republican legislators are yet to apologize in the aftermath of the report.

Ultimately, by basing their fears of fraud and terrorist funding in Islamophobia rather than any tangible evidence, Republican legislators wasted valuable time and resources by giving a platform to unproven and racist allegations in order to hide their failure to adequately fund quality childcare for low income and immigrant communities. Childcare fraud remains an important and urgent issue for Minnesota state government, but harmful and baseless accusations have only distracted from efforts to effectively deal with the issue. The report can be found here: https://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/sreview/ccap.pdf