JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KMOX) – A state audit has found hundreds of Missouri daycare providers have been collecting government money for children who were not even there.

Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich said a recent audit of how the state spent $68 million in federal funds revealed more than $300,000 was paid last year alone to childcare providers who provided care for fewer children than they claimed.

The money in question came from a fund controlled by the Department of Social Services. Schweich said the providers were claiming money they clearly were not entitled to.

“If the child leaves the program, you can’t continue to bill for the absences and that’s what we found was happening. They were literally billing for children that weren’t there,” he said.

Schweich said one risk in mistakenly covering people who are not eligible in the program is that the federal government can attempt to take money back from the state money which should not have been spent. “The bigger risk is needy families and needy elderly people. There isn’t going to be enough money for them because people who are not entitled to those funds are getting them,” he said.

Schweich also said the federal government has a pending lawsuit against the state to recoup past misspent money.

In response to the audit, the Department of Social Services said Tuesday it agrees with the findings and plans to address this issue.

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