SOUTHERN ILLINOIS – Three members of Southern Illinois’ Republican legislative delegation to the Illinois House called for immediate hearings Monday after a recent audit of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) revealed more than half of pandemic-related unemployment assistance paid out by the State of Illinois’ Department of Employment Security was paid out fraudulently.
“The most recent audit of PUA funds released by IDES reveals that nearly $2 billion in federal funds paid out for fraudulent unemployment claims by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES),” Rep. Dave Severin (R-Benton) said. “Any agency in government that loses money to fraud needs to be investigated, but $2 billion in fraud? Looking into this and making sure it never happens again should be an urgent priority for lawmakers and the Governor.”
Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) saidthe Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was created to help people not usually covered by unemployment insurance, like gig workers and those who are self-employed. Windhorst said he was “shocked at the size and scope of the fraud.”
“It is well known that fraud was a problem with the unemployment system, but this audit shows that more than half of the money paid out by IDES for unemployment went to the pockets of fraudsters instead of unemployed Illinoisans desperately in need of relief as a result of Governor Pritzker’s economic lockdowns,” Windhorst said. “The audit found that out of a total of $3.6 billion in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds paid out between July 2020 and June 2021, with nearly $1.9 billion tied to fraud. The General Assembly should immediately investigate this fraud, and our law enforcement agencies should root out and prosecute those responsible.”
Rep. Paul Jacobs (R-Pomona) called for accountability for the Pritzker Administration throughout the pandemic-related lockdowns, as IDES “fumbled trying to get relief to those that were made unemployed by the Governor’s Executive Orders.”
“We have known for several months that the Pritzker Administration failed to make use of free resources to fight fraud from the very beginning of the pandemic,” Jacobs said. “You can call it fraud, call it organized crime, I call it stealing. Governor Pritzker caused the lockdowns and massive unemployment, and then his agency bungled delivering relief to people that needed it while at the same time sending $2 billion out to fraudsters. This administration needs to answer questions and be held accountable.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, the newest audit from the Auditor General’s office may not show the full scope of pandemic-related fraud in Illinois. Under another federally funded program that boosted claim checks, the state paid out an additional $3.8 billion. The audit also doesn’t address the thousands of Illinoisans whose names and accounts were improperly used to hijack legitimate claims.
The Southern Illinois Republican lawmakers called on Democrats in the House and Senate to convene committees charged with administrative oversight and call officials from the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the Governor’s office to testify.