(The Center Square) – Illinois reported nearly 10,000 more initial unemployment filers last week than the week before while stories of fraud and lack of benefits being paid out persist. A state lawmaker is demanding public hearings to get to the bottom of it.
The U.S. The Department of Labor reports 46,000 initial unemployment claims were filed by Illinoisans last week. That’s 9,800 more than the previous report.
Stories continue to mount of people applying for benefits not getting return calls for months. There are also more reports of fraud without being addressed.
State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said he regularly hears from constituents about the rampant fraud and lack of getting through to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
“I have people say that when they do get a callback, they get hung up on and they have to start all over,” Murphy said. “It’s just a mess.”
One instance he shared was a teacher who discovered thousands of fraudulent benefits were being paid in her name, but not to her, and she was told to pay the money back to the state. He also said the school district she works for got dinged for the unemployment payout despite disputing the claim.
State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, chairs the House State Government Administration Committee. She has not called a public hearing to hold the Illinois Department of Employment Security to account.
“At this time, out of caution for individuals' health [because of COVID-19,] I won't call an in-person meeting,” she said. “We have been having many meetings with IDES … I think the volume is so great, it has overloaded the system similar to the issues in many other states.”
She also said that she has been holding agency officials accountable.
“I keep my residents informed and I am constantly holding IDES accountable in our meetings and through emailing them directly,” Kifowit said. “That is the role of an elected official, to work with department heads and hold them accountable – I think it is effective regardless if it is in working groups, personally or in a subject matter.”
Murphy said while the House isn’t authorized for remote meetings, members can still get together safely.
“[The Joint Commission on Administrative Rules] meets on a regular basis I know,” Murphy said. “There for a while we had the hearing in regards to Speaker [Michael] Madigan, they were meeting in person. It can be done.”
Murphy demands public hearings.
“We need to have them brought into a hearing and answer tough questions,” Murphy said. “It’s seven months into it and we’re having new problems, plus we still have the old problems.”
Nearly half a million Illinoisans are drawing on benefits as the state borrows to cover the costs.