FILE - Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Illinois,

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

(The Center Square) – In the wake of a massive unemployment fraud scheme in Illinois and around the country, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said state officials are working with the federal investigators to address the problem.

Thousands of Illinoisans who did not apply for unemployment benefits have received prepaid unemployment debit cards. Pritzker blamed the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program.

“This is a brand new program that the federal government rushed to develop and then left each state to create its own separate system,” the governor said. “As a result, there were massive holes for illegal fraudsters to steal federal dollars from taxpayers across the country.”

He said the Illinois Department of Employment Security has identified more than 120,000 cases of unemployment insurance fraud. Of that total, 107,000 cases involved the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program since it was launched in May. Another 14,500 cases of unemployment fraud were identified in the standard unemployment system, the governor said.

“An individual who has not filed an unemployment claim but has received a debit card or an unemployment insurance letter in the mail has likely been a target of this fraud," Pritzker said.

Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville has called for hearings on the matter.

“If the governor is not willing to answer questions or have his hand-picked consultant who is running the program answer questions, I think that is a travesty for the citizens of Illinois,” Davis said.

State officials are asking people who incorrectly received a debit card to go to the IDES website, click on the “Report fraud and identity theft” tab and fill out the information.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.