ILLINOIS — At 105,000 in Illinois last week, the number of new unemployment filings increased, but so do the reports of people being told they have to pay back benefits they’ve received months ago.
Behind only California, Illinois led the nation with a spike of first-time unemployment filers last week. According to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor, 105,599 Illinoisans filed for initial benefits last week. That’s nearly 31,500 more than were reported filed the week before.
The state’s system has been hampered with backlogs and fraudulent activity.
Reports continue of people receiving unemployment benefits when they didn’t apply for them, and other fraudulent activity. There’s also a slew of reports of independent workers like hair stylists who were shut down by the state in the spring because of COVID-19 being told they have to pay back the money they got for unemployment.
State Rep. Mike Marron, R-Fithian, said he can’t get anyone at the state agency to return his calls after constituents pleaded for help.
“They were shut down by the government,” Marron said. “They were promised relief, help to make sure they got through. That liked to never come but when it finally did get there, now months later after that’s been spent just so these people can just keep their head above water, the government’s demanding that they pay the money back?”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker reacted to the growing reports saying the federally created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is faulty because it required the benefactor to self-report their income level.
“They put down what they might have thought was going to be their income for the year otherwise, and the state has to verify those numbers on the backend,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker said Congress created the program and it’s up to them to fix it.
Marron said a number he was provided to contact the state agency director was no longer in service and he has nowhere else to turn.
“Until the majority [Democratic party] decides that they want to hold people accountable for this disaster, I don’t know what to tell people anymore,” Marron said. “I will tell you that I’m ashamed of this. And I’m ashamed I can’t get a hold of anybody. And somebody needs to get me some answers.”
Republicans have for months pushed for public hearings into persistent problems with IDES to no avail.
The Center Square – Greg Bishop