A recent audit found that more than half of the money paid out by the program was stolen by fraudulent actors.
When the pandemic lockdowns went into effect and thousands of Illinoisans lost their jobs, many who were not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits sought help from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which was federally-funded but run by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). Between July 2020 and June 2021, Illinois paid out $3.6 billion in PUA funds, but $1.9 billion was tied to fraud.
It is clear that this audit is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to putting a dollar amount on the mismanagement at IDES. We need hearings to see the full scope of the problem which could easily total billions more.
A previous investigation found that IDES failed to make use of free resources to fight fraud and that the agency was slow to develop processes to prevent fraud. The result was countless people in our area getting fraudulent unemployment applications opened in their names, and billions of dollars being stolen from the program designed to help those who lost their jobs.
We need accountability from the state’s leaders, and we need to know how this happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.