Illinois House Republicans sounded off on Governor JB Pritzker’s management of the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the breakdown of the unemployment system that has led to massive delays and fraud at the department during a Zoom press conference on Wednesday.
State Representative Mike Marron (R-Fithian) has been a vocal critic of IDES’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented number of unemployment claims caused by Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders that closed businesses across the state. Along with addressing systemic fraud, Marron says Pritzker must explain why his administration has not reallocated staff from other state agencies to assist IDES.
“My office and the offices of my colleagues have been dealing with the failures at IDES for almost 10 months now. The heartbreaking long line of desperate constituents calling our office has not gotten smaller, and the department is as nonresponsive as they were when the pandemic began,” Marron said. “When we demanded State employees be redirected to help with the unprecedented workload at IDES, the Governor falsely claimed that federal rules kept him from hiring adequate numbers of staff or transferring state employees to help at IDES. We know what he said is not true. It is unacceptable how the Governor and the Department have responded to this crisis that they themselves have caused.”
State Representative Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore) says the administration must assist in policy making to help displaced workers avoid being punished because of failures at IDES. Keicher says Illinoisans are receiving notices that they owe money to the State of Illinois that they cannot afford and should not have to pay.
“I support immediate passage of legislation to forgive the full amount of PUA the Governor is attempting to claw back from Illinois residents,” said Rep. Keicher. “Most displaced workers approved for PUA in 2020 were awarded amounts calculated by IDES in error because the Governor refused to hire staff starting in April to help. Imagine you are a hairdresser who has been unable to work since March, and in July you finally get some money to pay your bills. Then in October, the Governor comes to you and says, ‘Sorry but we did bad math and we need that money back, can you please pay back the money you no longer have?’” “It’s unconscionable.”
State Representative Mike Murphy (R-Springfield) is proposing a system that would flag out of state or multiple failed applications to help cut down on fraudulent claims. Murphy also favors instituting employer contact reference checks to stop fake applications from being approved.
“If the administration would simply institute basic fraud protection measures like flagging out-of-state claims for review and pursuing employer reference checks, we could easily curb much of the fraud plaguing the system. This shouldn’t require legislative action,” said Murphy. “But the fact remains that we still have numerous unanswered questions and must have public hearings to find solutions to not only rein in the larger problems, but to ensure the families rightfully in need of unemployment benefits has access to them. I sincerely hope the Governor will speak up before the Lame Duck Session begins and join our call for public hearings so we can find these solutions to take action together.”