A new audit reveals Illinois paid out nearly $2 billion in fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), State Representative Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) is calling for immediate hearings into the operations at the troubled agency.
According to State Representative Dan Caulkins, “This was pure negligence to pay out $1.8 billion dollars in fraudulent claims. The House of Representatives must immediately convene legislative hearings to show us where the money went and come up with a solution to ensure this does not happen again. Legitimate people couldn’t receive the benefits they applied for, but billions were paid to fraudsters? We need answers to this question because the money was sent somewhere.”
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was created to help people not usually covered by unemployment insurance, like gig workers and those who are self-employed, but according to a new audit, more than half of the money IDES paid out from a special pandemic unemployment fund went to the pockets of fraudsters instead of unemployed Illinoisans desperately in need of relief. The audit found that out of a total of $3.6 billion in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds paid out between July 2020 and June 2021, nearly $1.9 billion was tied to fraud.
IDES has previously been criticized for failing to make use of free resources to fight fraud that was made available before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for being slow to develop processes to prevent fraud.
Rep. Caulkins added, “I asked the unemployment agency how they were handling fraudulent claims from the very beginning and was met with excuses. We now know today the state did a horrible job and it’s worse than we anticipated. At this hearing, the state unemployment agency needs to show us how and where the $1.8 billion was lost.”