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In this week’s Friday Five, Maximus is reading about efforts to prevent unemployment fraud, new approaches to child welfare, state policy changes to Medicaid, mental health and substance abuse on the rise, and IRS modernization.

1. Too sweet of a pie: Cybercriminals steal $8B in COVID relief funds 

Cybercriminals have stolen an estimated $8 billion by filing fraudulent unemployment claims during COVID-19. According to Politico, the outdated and overburdened state unemployment systems have struggled to identify and prevent this fraud. Now, states are asking for more help from the federal government as they try to balance fraud prevention with getting aid to legitimate applicants. 

2. Remote schooling forces child welfare agencies to adapt

Child welfare agencies are adapting their approaches as remote schooling continues in many states, according to the Associated Press. For example, New Mexico launched a series of welfare checks on students labeled chronically absent, is proactively calling vulnerable families, and encouraging everyone in the community to step up as a mandatory reporter. 

3. State Medicaid programs respond to meet COVID-19 challenges: Results from a 50-State Medicaid budget survey for state fiscal years 2020 and 2021 

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently conducted a survey of state Medicaid directors that focused on policy changes for FY 2021. The survey found most planned changes are focused on addressing COVID-19 and associated enrollment increases. They center on: eligibility, rates and taxes, delivery systems, long-term services, telehealth, and prescription drugs.

4. A 'second wave' of mental health devastation due to Covid-19 is imminent, experts say

Experts are concerned that the mental health system will not be able to handle an anticipated ‘second wave’ of mental health and substance abuse issues as the COVID-19 pandemic endures. CNN reports this may lead to access to care issues and an increase in suicides and drug overdoses, particularly among vulnerable populations. Proposed solutions include increasing funding and screening for mental health, additional training for providers, and enhanced support for families and communities. 

5. IRS modernization still lacks funding

Funds have yet to be appropriated for IT modernization efforts at the Internal Revenue Service. FCW reports that just 20% of the agency’s IT budget is currently spent on modernization efforts, while the remainder is used to maintain legacy systems. The lack of funding could curtail the agency’s efforts to replace its legacy systems in FY2024 as it forces the agency to continually re-plan and prioritize efforts. Modernized systems would provide more security and cost less for the IRS to maintain.