CLEAR, COVID-19, and the California Nurses Hero Awards
At Thomson Reuters, it is our mission to help our government customers make critical decisions that will help keep organizations, communities, and people safe and thriving. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our customers need us more than ever. This means Thomson Reuters must provide solutions that help safeguard public health and ensure public funds are properly managed and protected from fraud, waste, and abuse.
Following the acquisition of Pondera Solutions, we are ideally placed to leverage our fraud prevention and investigation solutions in healthcare and large government programs. Pondera has deep expertise using advanced analytics technology to uncover fraudulent activity. These solutions will help local and national government agencies ensure valuable financial aid and award programs are only granted to deserving recipients, and not lost to those who would seek to unfairly profit from COVID-19 relief efforts.
The Hero Awards
In April 2020, California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) announced the launch of the Skilled Nursing Facility Hero Awards, a stipend program for licensed nursing facility workers. Through this program, 50,000 applicants were granted one-time payments of $500 as a show of appreciation for their efforts and commitment to caring for vulnerable and sick Californians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today we salute the frontline healthcare workers who are taking care of our state’s most vulnerable residents in response to COVID-19,” said OSHPD Acting Director Marko Mijic.
The OSHPD wanted to be absolutely certain the gifts they awarded would be sent to qualified recipients. As with many government grants, economic impact payments, and other incentives, they were aware that the possibility of financial gain through their program would present opportunities for fraudulent activity. The OSHPD team needed a public records search and analysis solution that could help them make sure that every penny was given to the nurses who deserved it.
Great generosity handled with care
The Hero Awards program was made possible by a $25 million donation from Facebook, Inc.
“We’re grateful for all the incredible work California’s critical staff in nursing facilities are doing to save lives and help combat COVID-19. They’re on the front lines every day selflessly helping others, and we hope these stipends will help cover some of their expenses so they can focus on their critical work,” said Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
To ensure this gift wasn’t mishandled, the California OSHPD had to quickly double-check that all recipients met the award’s criteria—namely that they were active, licensed vocational nurses or certified nurse assistants in the state of California. To do this, they trusted the public record tools of Thomson Reuters CLEAR and the powerful data analytics of Pondera.
Using CLEAR to find true heroes
Using CLEAR Risk Inform and Pondera’s fraud analytics platform, the California OSPHD immediately identified several indicators of fraud risk, such as redundant social security numbers, synthetic identities, and more. Once this initial step was complete, they used CLEAR ID Confirm to verify each applicant’s identity and certify that they held valid and current nursing licenses in the state of California.
Pondera integrated all identity data with the applicants’ data and returned actionable leads on questionable identities almost instantaneously. In just one week, these solutions helped the OSHPD team analyze and vet 39,000 applicants.
While the vast majority of applicants were cleared to receive their $500 award, careful analysis of the data provided by Thomson Reuters CLEAR and Pondera did catch some interesting anomalies. These included applications from individuals whose names were registered as deceased, some who had applied with false license numbers, and others from people who had registered to receive awards for themselves as well as multiple members of their households who were not nurses.
Ultimately, the California OSHPD was able to efficiently and accurately sift through the mountain of public records data to get the insights they needed and give the hard-working nurses the rewards that they deserve. And the rewards were received with great joy.
“Thank you so much! You don’t know how much this helps!” said one award recipient on social media.
Comments like these show just how important these types of gifts are to those who need them and why government agencies like the California OSHPD put so much care into their application review process.
The future is CLEAR
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the lives of honest citizens, fraudsters will continue to search for ways to take advantage of others’ good will. It is very likely that programs similar to the California OSHPD Hero Awards will be highly sought after for financial relief and social encouragement throughout the course of the pandemic, so protecting these programs will be essential going forward.
If you or your team are concerned about preventing fraud in your own programs, Thomson Reuters CLEAR and Pondera can help you efficiently collect, analyze, and connect critical public records data across state and federal collections. You can trust that our solutions will give you the most robust, up-to-date information and fraud risk analysis, so that you can focus on making the right decisions for your program.
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