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*** UPDATED x1 *** Once again, with feeling, Congress needs to act and IDES needs to get its act together

Friday, Dec 11, 2020

* Center Square

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.

* Pritzker is right that this is a national issue. New York Times

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers gig workers, part-time hires, seasonal workers and others who do not qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, has kept millions afloat. The program, established by Congress in March as part of the CARES Act, has provided over $70 billion in relief.

But in carrying out the hastily conceived program, states have overpaid hundreds of thousands of workers — often because of administrative errors. Now states are asking for that money back.

The notices come out of the blue, with instructions to repay thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Those being billed, already living on the edge, are told that their benefits will be reduced to compensate for the errors — or that the state may even put a lien on their home, come after future wages or withhold tax refunds.

Many who collected payments are still out of a job, and may have little prospect of getting one. Most had no idea that they were being overpaid. […]

House Democrats have called for renewed pandemic relief to include a provision allowing states to waive overpayments when workers cannot repay them without severe hardship. The provision would apply to previous and future cases. A separate House bill, with bipartisan sponsorship, provides for forgiveness if the overpayment was not the recipient’s fault and “such repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience.”

Even so, IDES just has to find a way to be more responsive. And do it, like, now.

*** UPDATE *** Rep. Lindsey LaPointe…

Hi Rich,

I have filed a bill to waive unemployment overpayments during the pandemic if the state is at fault, HB5861. As reporting has outlined, a big source of the overpayments is PUA and we would need federal action to allow states to waive those overpayments.

After some media coverage, I am now receiving emails from residents quite literally from all over the state with their anxiety provoking experiences and desperation. The state is asking them to payback amounts in the range of $1k-11k. Here are a few highlights.

    • “I received an email this week saying that I owe the State over $3,000. That’s about 20% of what they paid me to begin with. I understand miscalculations can be made, but how can you be off by 20%? It makes no sense. My entire family had COVID a few weeks ago, and I barely worked the entire month to recover and care for them. Still, I did not file for Unemployment because it is such a headache. Well, since I haven’t worked, I don’t have much money coming in, and Christmas is two weeks away as well. Where am I supposed to come up with $3000? I think this is an injustice. Why is it my problem that you can’t figure out benefits properly? Still, I doubt it is worth my time to appeal.
    I’ve never been on food stamps, SNAP, welfare, or collected unemployment before. I just needed a little help to get me through the pandemic, and now I feel like I am being stabbed in the back”. - Byron, IL
    • “Today I received a correspondence letter from IDES claiming that I was overpaid by almost 4k. They are demanding I pay this back in less than a month. When the pandemic hit in March, my hours were reduced from 40 hours a week to 10-12 hours a week. I spent several weeks trying to get approved for IDES, from March-May and finally received my benefits in June. They deposited a lump some, it was back pay from the date that I applied. Now they claim that I was over paid every single week that I received pay and they are demanding that I also pay ALL of the additional $600 back. I am utterly, sick to my stomach. I feel like giving up. This feels like a nightmare.” - Chicago, IL

Previous media coverage is here: https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2020/11/05/illinois-lawmaker-behind-bill-to-fix-ides-overpayment-problems/

-Lindsey

- Posted by Rich Miller        

22 Comments
  1. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 1:25 pm:

    The Pritzker Administration has a new Director, after the failing of IDES, yet… Chapa LaVia is still a Director. Just a side note.

    To the post,

    === 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.===

    While I see this argument as correct, is it fair to also say the issues IDES is still working through are also items Illinois itself can further work to make better?

    Until we are at the point where IDES can say with certainty they are fulfilling their part of their mission and the hindered and is isolated to the Feds…

    This might not get better until late January or February, is that where we’re at?


  2. - Intheknow - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 1:27 pm:

    Received my debit card a couple weeks ago, in November. Called, put on hold, left message, automated message said they would return my call in the order it was received.
    Received my call back yesterday, on December 10.


  3. - ste_with_a_v_en - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 1:36 pm:

    Let go in September.

    IDES didn’t get wages till mid-November

    Now they say I have penalty weeks because of fraud?

    They need to get it together over there.


  4. - Mama - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 1:45 pm:

    It sounds like IDES need more staff, a better and faster computers & software to handle the huge intake of unemployment needs.

    Lot of scams and ID theft going on right now. I know they call a state agency when someone employed or retired from there request unemployment. IDES is checking out fraud claims.


  5. - Techie - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 1:47 pm:

    Where is the additional funding for IDES going to come from?

    It is ridiculous how hard it can be to get a hold of someone at IDES, but is it the fault of the agency when it’s staffing level was designed for “regular” amounts of unemployment? If they are supposed to accommodate a surge in unemployment claims, don’t they need additional staff to handle it? And where is the money to pay them going to come from?

    Sounds like the IL legislature needs to figure this one out.


  6. - Fairhope - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 1:51 pm:

    KR has only been at it a short time. I’m sure she’s 24/7, head down and kicking butt in many different ways! There’s hope!


  7. - Mama - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 1:52 pm:

    I feel like the federal government ‘Trump & Congress’ really don’t care about people who are on unemployment.


  8. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 1:53 pm:

    - Techie - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 1:47 pm:

    State UI administration, including staff, is funded by the federal government.


  9. - mjrothjr - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:09 pm:

    I was surprised that IDES doesn’t have a website to report fraud. I and several of my coworkers (partners and employees at a law firm) received letters notifying us that our applications for unemployment debit cards (from some other employer in Peoria, when we all live in Chicago?) had been approved. 7 days after I left a voice mail to report it, still no return call from the hotline.


  10. - mjrothjr - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:12 pm:

    Funny enough, the debit card in this other person’s name showed up in the mail today.


  11. - Product of the '60's - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:19 pm:

    The IDES debit card scam has been going on since early summer. My family was hit and no one is umemployed. While I give high marks to the governor on how he has handled the covid crisis, the IDES debit card scam as well as the agency’s inability to help out those who you hear are truly unemployed and not getting assistance is a black mark for Pritzker.


  12. - A Jack - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:22 pm:

    In my case IDES approved unemployment for an agency I had never worked at. They also had a child under 18, which wasn’t true and could have been verified with social security and tax records. And the date of unemployment was April 1, but they applied in October for unemployment.

    There were so many red flags in my case that is was quite clear that IDES is not checking even the most fundamental data.

    IDES needs a dedicated fraud line with this many cases. Calling their main line is a menu nightmare.

    Pritzker needs to contract out a dedicated fraud hotline for IDES and he should have done it six months ago.


  13. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:26 pm:

    - mjrothjr - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:09 pm:

    Right here: https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/Pages/Contact-IDES_Form.aspx

    The step-by-step:

    illinois.gov/ides

    Under “About IDES” click “contact IDES” and click “Contact Form” right at the top of the page. Next, under “why are you contacting IDES?” there is section that says “Report UI Fraud/Identity Theft.”


  14. - A Jack - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:29 pm:

    mjrothjr … in my case it took IDES 2 1/2 weeks to call me back, the day before Thanksgiving. I missed that call and they tried again two weeks later. I missed that call too, so I suspect that they will call again two weeks after that.


  15. - Techie - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:42 pm:

    @Precinct Captain

    Thanks for clarifying that, I was not aware that the administration of unemployment insurance is federally funded.

    That said, does anyone know if anything Congress has done this year has increased funding to state unemployment agencies so they can hire additional staff to compensate for the surge in claims?


  16. - Captain Obvious - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:43 pm:

    If the state had verified the income of the recipient as they were supposed to, people would not have been overpaid. We are overwhelmed is not a valid excuse. But it’s really all the orange man’s fault the state is totally incompetent. Congress can’t fix that.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 2:59 pm:

    === But it’s really all the orange man’s fault ===

    The economy and unemployment… Trump claimed both as his… until he didn’t

    Keep up, please.


  18. - mjrothjr - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 3:29 pm:

    Thanks Precinct Captain. You’d think they would link to that on the Report Fraud page, but that page only mentions calling by phone.


  19. - IBE - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 3:53 pm:

    I have been working for the State for over 30 years and have had two fraudulent claims filed in my name since October. The number of state employees affected has got to be I. The thousands. Some employees are having their wages garnished to pay for wages they never received. It is RIDICULOUS


  20. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 3:56 pm:

    Folks that don’t adequately fund their government shouldn’t be shocked by inadequate government responses. This is literally the public’s consequence to the public’s policy enacted by leaders elected by the public.

    I understand that there are people who are upset that they were overpaid by IDES based off of information represented on their unemployment applications which may have been false or at least optimistic, but it’s still a little bit of light fraud.

    Representative LaPointe’s bill wouldn’t actually address any concerns caused by an overstatement of income on an unemployment claim.

    ===I have filed a bill to waive unemployment overpayments during the pandemic if the state is at fault===

    Speaking as a resident of the State of Illinois, I would want to know what makes over payments of unemployment benefits materially different from any other over payment?

    This is our money we’re talking about. If it wasn’t supposed to go to that person, why should we let everyone keep it?

    I have personally reported several instances of people filing fraudulent unemployment claims while receiving cash under the table from their employer.

    I have not read Representative LaPointe’s bill, but I do not think it is an appropriate action to allow claimants to keep over payments indifferently and if the over payment is based off of any information provided by the claimant and accepted by the state in Good Faith, Representative LaPointe might want to show the courage of letting those constituents know that it isn’t the state’s fault if they misrepresented their income on the form.

    Let’s not assume that just because someone is genuinely unemployed that they can’t also have committed a little bit of light fraud and I hope Representative LaPointe’s bill won’t reward people that overstated their income on a government form expecting no consequences.


  21. - Still Waiting - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 4:22 pm:

    In the last two weeks, many school districts have gotten hit with fraudulent claims. It’s been almost a month since I reported our first one, and we just today heard back from IDES.


  22. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Dec 11, 20 @ 4:37 pm:

    *** UPDATE *** Rep. Lindsey LaPointe…

    A fiscal note attached to LaPointe’s bill from IDES states that, if passed into law, it may cost employers 900% more in UI taxes for not conforming with federal law.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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