State Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield) is calling for immediate hearings into the revelations from a recent audit of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). The audit revealed IDES lost nearly $2 billion of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program funding to fraud over a 1-year period.
“The Pritzker administration and IDES have refused to disclose the extent to which fraud affected our unemployment system and this audit makes abundantly clear why,” said Butler. “The loss of nearly $2 billion dollars, more than half the funds for the PUA program, displays an unprecedented level of negligence by the administration and IDES management. Blaming the previous President’s administration is an unacceptable excuse, and we need immediate hearings to get to the bottom of this failure.”
The PUA program was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic for workers not typically covered by standard unemployment benefits, such as those self-employed and gig workers. The program immediately faced fraud and identity theft problems, which IDES and the administration blamed on poor federal guidance. However, a Chicago Tribune investigation published last year revealed IDES failed to follow federal recommendations for fraud prevention tools made available before the pandemic.
The Illinois Auditor General audit released yesterday found that of $3.6 billion in PUA program funds paid out between July 2020 and June 2021, nearly $1.9 billion was fraud. In the report, auditors called the situation unprecedented. Auditors also noted that IDES has not maintained various records of transactions to beneficiaries for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, nor does it have adequate internal controls to safeguard the fund’s assets for recording transactions.