On July 26, the Illinois Auditor General released a 156-page-report on the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) in response to a resolution filed by State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) calling for a full performance audit of the state’s handling of the unemployment system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scathing report shows overpayments to the tune of $5.24 billion from fiscal years 2020 to 2022. Approximately $2.04 billion was paid in unemployment insurance, with the remaining $3.2 billion coming from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). From those overpayments, only $551.7 million has been recovered, approximately 10%. Unfortunately, those numbers cannot be entirely confirmed by the IDES, which means that these overpayment numbers could be understated.
The report also found that beginning in March 2020, IDES suspended many routine identity cross-matches, performed on all regular Unemployment Insurance claims filed, to prevent fraud in order to handle the increase in claims processing traffic. Unfortunately, the side effect of rushing the approval process seems to have left the unemployment programs more susceptible to fraud. A large number of payments were even made to people who registered under the names of people who were deceased or in prison.
Furthermore, IDES did not implement one of the tools strongly recommended in May 2020 by the US Department of Labor until September 2021, alongside the suspension of other required and recommended cross-matches early in the pandemic. Even worse, IDES is continuing to still ignore select Department of Labor recommendations made in October 2021 and February 2022, including additional cross-matches that could be used to combat fraud.
I sit on the Legislative Audit Commission, and upon the release of the audit, I released this statement:
“Throughout the pandemic and beyond, Governor Pritzker and members of his Administration have done everything they can to keep information regarding the depth of dysfunction at IDES hidden. Now, thanks to an audit requested by Republican Senator Chapin Rose, we have more answers about the level of wrongful payments made by IDES from 2020-2022, and the issue was much worse than anyone thought.
“This audit shines a light on the complete incompetence of Governor Pritzker’s Department of Employment Security during the pandemic. The worst part is that a lot of this $5.24 billion in overpayments was preventable. If the Pritzker Administration had insisted on a proper eligibility review of each application and adopted federal fraud-prevention guidelines, they would not have been issuing payments to fraudsters who stole identities or filed as people who were deceased or in prison.
“The Governor and top officials at IDES never took responsibility for their sloppiness and have yet to apologize to the hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans who were affected by their incompetence. At a time when the people of Illinois needed their government most, Governor Pritzker and his officials at IDES failed them. Instead, taxpayers and businesses are now left on the hook to pay for the incompetence and gross negligence of this Administration. The people of Illinois deserve much better.”
Upcoming Events in the 32nd District
I have a few community outreach events coming up that might be of interest. Mark your calendars now for the following:
- August 16, Unclaimed Property Day: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM, Fox Lake Public Library, 255 E. Grand Ave., Fox Lake
- September 19, Virtual FAFSA Information Meeting: 6:00 PM-7:00 PM, online, details coming soon
- October 17, Senior Fair: 10:00 AM-12:00 Noon, Grand Oaks Recreation Center, 1401 IL-176, Crystal Lake
Federal Student Loan Repayment Pause to End
After a more than three-year pause, those with federal student loans will have to restart paying their federal student loan bills in October. Interest on federal student loans will begin to accrue in September.
Student loan experts recommend that borrowers reach out to their student loan servicer with any questions about their loans as soon as possible, especially if they are interested in enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. Those plans, which set payments based on income and family size, can lower monthly payments but require borrowers to submit some paperwork.
Please consider attending one of the free seminars offered by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation listed in the graphic above to receive additional information. You can use the QR code to register.
Several Available DCEO Grant Application Deadlines Are Approaching
There are many little-known grants from the Department of Commerce Economic Opportunity (DCEO) for workforce programs and training with open applications right now and funding is still available for several. However, within the next month, several of those grants will reach their deadlines.
Digital Equity Capacity Kickstarter Grant Program
For this grant, the DCEO is seeking nonprofit organizations, local governments, public libraries, and school districts that will promote low-cost broadband programs, provide training on digital literacy, provide access to computers, or advance a community’s broadband access vision and goals. A total amount of $1 million is available, and awards may range from $30,000 to $300,000, with matching funds encouraged but not required. In order to be considered, entities must be pre-qualified, and you can find more information about it online. The application can be completed and submitted online, but the deadline is August 1 at 5 p.m. CST.
Energy Transition Navigators Program
In this program, selected Navigator Teams will connect individuals to the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) workforce and contractor programs and provide outreach and recruitment. Applicants should be nonprofit organizations with a history of serving low-wage or low-skilled workers or individuals from economically disadvantaged communities, and one team will be selected per each of the 13 regional hubs. A total of $6 million is available, with awards ranging from $250,000 to $600,000. The DCEO does request that applicants submit a notice of intent to apply online by July 27 at 5 p.m. and applicants must also be pre-qualified, but applications are not due until August 15 at 5 p.m. and can also be submitted online.
Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program
The DCEO will select nonprofits, including public colleges or universities, that will recruit, prescreen, and provide pre-apprenticeship skills training to help underrepresented populations successfully transition into full apprenticeship programs in construction and building trades. To fill current gaps in the program, the DCEO is especially looking for sites in Sangamon, Peoria, McLean, DeKalb, Kankakee, LaSalle, Rock Island, Whiteside, Marion, Lawrence, and Jackson counties as well as suburban Chicagoland. In total, $10 million will be offered with grants between $55,000 and $550,000. Like the other programs, pre-qualification is required and a notice of interest to apply should be submitted online. Applications will be open until August 30 at 5 p.m. and are also available to submit online.
A list of all open DCEO grants can be found on its website.
Secretary of State Moving to Appointment-Only Facilities Beginning September 1
Starting September 1 of this year, 44 of the busiest DMV facilities in Illinois will begin requiring appointments for the issuance of driver’s licenses, REAL IDs, or ID cards and in-car driving tests. Customers seeking renewals, license plate stickers, or who need other motor vehicle service transactions will be able to complete their transactions online.
All suburban DMV facilities will transition to appointment-only facilities on September 1. Whereas DMVs today are open Tuesdays through Saturdays, moving forward, most stations will be open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 AM until 5:30 PM. Sixteen facilities will also have Saturday hours from 8:00 AM until 12:30 PM, but none from the 33rd District made that list. The closest DMV facilities with Saturday hours as of September 1 will be Deerfield, Naperville, Lombard, Schaumburg, and West Chicago (CDL licenses only in West Chicago).
Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias believes the move to appointment-only facilities will reduce wait times and incentivize more motorists to use online services for renewals. Motorists can visit ilsos.gov or call (844) 817-4649 to schedule an appointment starting September 1. Click here to view a short video on how to schedule an appointment.