Illinois House Republican members and Congressman Rodney Davis held a video press conference on Friday, July 24 to address systemic failures and rampant fraud at the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).
“For the entirety of the State of Illinois’ pandemic response, my office has been inundated with calls from out of work Illinoisans that cannot get through to file for unemployment,” Rep. Terri Bryant said. “Now, my office is being flooded with calls from people that have received unemployment benefits that they did not apply for and do not want. One of my constituents that received a benefits card is Congressman Mike Bost! He obviously would not have applied for unemployment benefits, but still received a debit card. Why and how is this possible? When people do their best to call IDES to return these fraudulent cards, they cannot get through. The failure is epic, and unacceptable.”
State Rep. Tim Butler says administrative oversight is woefully lacking, and demanded Illinois House Democrats hold hearings on the systemic failures and fraud happening at IDES.
“I want to start with hearings, in public, where we can question agency officials and get to the bottom of the failed response, and the data breach and fraud, and make sure something like this can never happen again in Illinois,” Butler said. “Governor Pritzker has finally admitted there are problems at IDES, but his go-to move has been to blame the Federal government. His response to Illinois workers in this time of crisis has been nothing short of a disaster.”
State Rep. Dan Ugaste echoed Butler and Bryant’s criticisms.
“People in Illinois are suffering,” Ugaste said. “They can’t get through to IDES to receive their owed unemployment benefits, and they can’t reach the agency to report fraud. This is an unacceptable situation and has been for months now, yet the problems at IDES just don’t stop. Instead of worrying about who is to blame, Governor Pritzker needs to fix the problems immediately.”
New IDES chief takes the helm as Unemployment Insurance problems persist. The Illinois unemployment insurance (UI) system provides temporary aid payments to unemployed persons who have been laid off through no fault of their own. Under the current COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020, Illinois UI is a primary means of support right now for hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans and their families. The Illinois UI system is operated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Illinois House Republican lawmakers, and many other leading Illinoisans, have reported widespread UI problems created by IDES actions and inactions. In one May 2020 incident reported by leaders that included Representative Terri Bryant, an apparent major security breach involving a database operated by a contractor under the name of IDES appears to have opened the Social Security numbers of thousands of Illinois residents to potential public scrutiny and hacking. Many other problems have been reported, including delays faced by hundreds of thousands of unemployed Illinoisans in getting through to the IDES database and filing valid UI claims. As recently as this week, ABC7 Chicago reported that Illinois continues to owe UI back payments to what could be thousands of Illinois residents.
A change has now taken place at IDES’s top rank. Kristin Richards has been named as the new acting director of the agency. Richards has spent 18 years in public service and most recently served as chief of staff to Illinois Senate President Don Harmon. The change was accompanied by promises of better performance in the future. Richards was appointed by Gov. Pritzker on Thursday, July 9.