CENTRAL ILLINOIS, Ill. (WMBD) — Republican State Senators in Illinois are pushing for a performance audit of the Illinois Department of Employment Security after seeing the results of a 2020 audit report Thursday.
The report raised concerns over the efficiency and safety of the system, which revealed around $150 million of, what they are calling, fraudulent benefits given out by the agency.
Senators Sue Rezin(Il.-38), Jason Plummer(Ill.-54), Dave Syverson(Il.-35), and Win Stoller(Il.-37) want the last 13 months of IDES activity examined. They project damages could be costing taxpayers up to a billion dollars.
“We’re asking for really just a bigger time frame to look at the program in its entirety, not just a short amount of time, to give us a bigger more transparent picture of what has happened,” Senator Rezin said.
The report covers 7 weeks of the unemployment agency’s activity in 2020, during the pandemic-related shutdowns. Rezin said it reveals the department accidentally gave out double benefits, and benefits to dead and unborn identities, children under the age of 13, and people over 90.
“There are many processes that need to be in place to make sure the people who are filing for unemployment benefits are truly the correct people,” Rezin said.
Senator Syverson said the choice to close businesses and employment offices made it more difficult for people to access those services easily, leading to more mistakes and fraudulent claims.
“There was no place for individuals to go for help,” Syverson said. “If anyone should have been considered essential workers, it should have been this department.”
Senator Stoller said workers and taxpayers are not responsible for the shutdown, nor what he is calling fraud. He said people should not have to dig themselves out of financial trouble.
“The last thing we should be doing right now is… increasing taxes on our business community, who have no fault in this, to pay for the deficient in our unemployment trust fund,” Stoller said.
Senator Plummer said what all Senators agreed upon is that this is not a bipartisan issue.
“Republican, Democrat, Independent, have all been impacted by this,” Plummer said. “This is something that we have to do on behalf of the people of Illinois.”
A spokesperson with the IDES said its findings are the result of the sudden influx of unemployment claims in the middle of a pandemic. Governor J.B. Pritzker’s administration did not comment on whether it supported a special audit.