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Lawmakers vote to make child care providers liable for improper payments

The state could soon have the power to take back fraudulent payments to child care providers who go out of business.

Both houses of the Legislature approved a bill Tuesday to make day care owners and officers personally liable for improper state funding under the Wisconsin Shares program, if their centers go out of business.

The recovery powers would apply even if the state's the one that shuts a center down.

The move comes after a state audit revealed $20 million in questionable payments to child care providers last year in the Wisconsin Shares program, which helps poor parents afford day care so they can work.

State officials recently shut down 99 providers for taking state funds improperly, and breaking the program's rules.

Also Tuesday, the Assembly Children and Families Committee endorsed other crack-downs in Wisconsin Shares.

Among other things, care providers would get more frequent background checks. Those guilty of child abuse or other major crimes could not be care providers. And public employees who report fraud would get protection for blowing the whistle.

The bill is expected to go to the full Assembly next week.

Republicans want to add an amendment requiring state and county workers to report fraud to district attorneys.