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Colorado Human Services Error To Cost Counties $7.1 Million

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Jackie Fortier
/
KUNC
Source: Colorado Office Of Administrative Solutions, Division of Financial Services

Because of a state accounting error, 41 Colorado counties have to pay back $7.1 million.

For years the Colorado Department of Human Services overpaid counties for their administrative costs. The counties were told earlier in 2015 they would need to repay some funds, but didn't find out the amount until recently.

The amount owed by each county varies with its population and how much it gets from the state. Weld owes $632,002, while Larimer owes over $526,722. Denver owes the most at just over $2.7 million.

"We've known about it for a couple of years," said Frank Alexander, the director of Boulder County's Housing and Human Services. "Our desire is to, you know, make the payment this year, so that we don't have to have a service implication or an implication that rolls into the budget process for next year."

Boulder's share is $822,484, which will be paid out of their reserve fund, and no services in Boulder County will be impacted.

"It's a state supervised county administered system. All of the statutorily mandated services that Colorado is required to provide as a result of the federal government and as a result of state legislation is the responsibility of the county human services to administer. That includes child support services, old age pension, adult protective services," Alexander said.

"This particular funding stream is responsible for us to help administer all the food assistance adult cash assistance, Medicaid, etc. That's what this resource is for. Boulder County has to pay a portion of the overall administrative costs, and that's where this reconciliation was incorrect."

The controller at the Colorado Office of Administrative Solutions, Clint Woodruff, noted each county will be given the ability to choose a repayment option that meets their needs and budget over the next three years. Some counties will pay in full, while others may opt for an installment plan. Responding to a request for comment, Weld County Director of Human Services Judy Griego made this statement:

Weld County has to repay $632,002.36. As you know, this issue is a result of the Colorado Department of Human Services' error, not counties. CDHS had confirmed that counties were not responsible for the error, nor did they have any way of knowing that the error was occurring. Weld County has reserved the amount as a payable amount to set the money aside for repayment from our current fund balance amount in the Social Services Fund.

Not all counties may find it as easy to pay. Boulder County keeps millions of dollars in reserve so they can continue services in case of budget shortfalls or government shutdowns. Weld County has had budget surpluses in recent years, mainly from oil and gas revenue.

Larimer County Human Services Director Laura Waker told The Coloradoan that the repayment isn't "going to debilitate our programs." At the same time, it's noted that the Larimer County Commission is requesting a five-year repayment window as a jab for how long it took to uncover the error.

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