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New bills attack fraud and criminal involvement in child care program

A new bill would make it a crime for state and county workers to look the other way when child care providers commit fraud in the Wisconsin Shares program.

And another bill would permanently ban certain types of criminals from getting state child care licenses.

Those measures were proposed Tuesday, after Children and Families' Secretary Reggie Bichawas questioned for two hours by a legislative panel about Wisconsin Shares.

He said there were no safeguards to fight fraud when the program was started in 1997 to give state-funded child care to welfare recipients so they can work.

But new safeguards are in place now, and 69 care providers have had their payments cut off due to fraud.

Bicha also said 95 percent of the fraud cases are in Milwaukee County, where most of the state payments go.

A recent audit showed that child care providers got $20 million in fraudulent and questionable payments last year from Wisconsin Shares.

Assembly Republican Mark Gundrum of New Berlin wrote a bill to make employees report suspected fraud by care providers to local prosecutors.

Some Democrats signed on to the bill, while others said it goes overboard.

But Gundrum says too many bureaucrats just shrug their shoulders and his bill would make them care, to protect their own hides if nothing else.

Gundrum's bill also bars certain criminals from getting child care licenses.

A separate bill from Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, and Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, would do the same thing.

That's after the audit showed that four registered sex offenders had the same addresses as licensed child care providers.