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Slow recovery, more UI fraud, restoring benefits after Trump delay, federal money to help transit and schools

Monday, Jan 4, 2021

* U of I

After a pause in November, the University of Illinois Flash Index continued its slow climb to finish the year, rising to 95.9 in December from its 95.6 level the previous two months.

This the highest reading since the precipitous decline that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic in March. However, the index is still almost 10 points below the pre-crisis level, and it remains below the 100-dividing line between growth and decline. See the full Flash Index archive.

“In one sense, 2020 was a devastating year for the Illinois and national economies. Unemployment rose from a historic low of less than 4% to nearly 15% in just a few weeks,” said University of Illinois economist J. Fred Giertz, who compiles the monthly index for the University of Illinois System’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs. “However, from another perspective, the economy’s resilience has been remarkable. Few observers would have predicted in April that the unemployment rate would fall below 7% before the end of the year.”

The Illinois unemployment rate exceeded the national rate by 2.5 percentage points after the onset of the crisis, but it is now near that of the rest of the nation. The recovery of the financial markets has been even more impressive.

Recovery is far from complete, and Giertz said that the process is not fully understood. It is likely the result of an unusually strong pre-crisis economy along with prompt and aggressive intervention on both the fiscal and monetary fronts. The surprisingly fast development of a vaccine has bolstered expectations even as the disease has persisted.

For the month, all three components of the index (corporate, individual income and sales tax receipts) exceeded the levels of the previous December after adjusting for inflation. For the year, receipts for Illinois’ three major taxes were below pre-crisis forecasts, but well above post-crisis predictions of a revenue disaster.

The Flash Index is normally a weighted average of Illinois growth rates in corporate earnings, consumer spending and personal income as estimated from receipts for corporate income, individual income, and retail sales taxes. These are adjusted for inflation before growth rates are calculated. The growth rate for each component is then calculated for the 12-month period using data through December 31, 2020. Ad hoc adjustments have been made to deal with the timing of the tax receipts resulting from state and federal changes in payment dates beginning in March.

Graph

* Ugh

If you have not received an unexpected unemployment benefits debit card in the mail, there is a chance you know someone who has already received one.

NBC 5 continues to hear from viewers who say their names are being used by strangers to file fraudulent unemployment claims with the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

As of early November, the IDES said more than 212,000 fraudulent claims have been made since March.

The cards may not have money pre-loaded, but an IDES spokesperson said fraudsters may try to access a victim’s account information in order to divert payments to another card.

* More

The Illinois Department of Employment Security has confirmed fraudsters are using a new scheme to file for unemployment compensation using personally identifying information which was seemingly obtained from a separate source (e.g. a previous cyber-attack or other identity theft) outside of the department’s systems.

An analysis found fraudsters were applying for unemployment benefits using the PII of certain identity theft victims and including fake employer addresses in their applications. Fraud notices from IDES, containing the PII, were then sent to the addresses fraudsters claimed were employers. This is now another aggressive maneuver used by bad actors looking to defraud and disrupt states’ unemployment systems.

Across the country, bad actors are filing unemployment insurance claims in the names of identity theft victims. Fraudsters take this information and submit claims using a fake employer address, which can coincide with a residential address, or with an employer that has no connection to the victim. IDES’s anti-fraud systems are structured to detect, stop, and flag these claims as fraudulent. However, this process does generate an employer notice, informing the employer of the fraudulent claim(s) filed on an employee.

* And

Illinois is working on restoring unemployment benefits to nearly 450,000 people whose benefits expired temporarily after President Donald Trump delayed signing a $900 billion coronavirus relief package.

Roughly 447,500 Illinoisans were at risk of losing jobless benefits entirely when multiple federal programs tied to the $2.2 trillion stimulus package from last spring expired Dec. 26, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. […]

The state is waiting on guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor on how to reinstate and implement the federal programs, but plans to pay any missed benefits retroactively, spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco said.

The U.S. Department of Labor said in a statement Tuesday most programs will remain unchanged, but it will deliver guidance to help states implement new programs “in the near future.”

* And here’s Yvette Shields at the Bond Buyer

While Chicago and the Illinois state government were left out, the region’s transit system and Chicago Public Schools emerged as winners in the new federal relief package, securing aid both had banked on when assembling their new budgets.

The Illinois Regional Transportation Authority’s service boards that provide light rail, commuter rail, and bus service in Chicago and the suburbs will receive $450 million from the $14 billion earmarked for public transit in the $910 billion package President Trump signed Sunday.

The infusion of funding will help prevent what officials had warned was an Armageddon scenario of deep service cuts and layoffs, but it’s still $50 million short of the $500 million a $3 billion 2021 budget assumed. […]

CPS expects to receive a $720 million windfall from the $82 billion allocation for public education in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act after sending $80 million to non-public schools as required under the package. The $82 billion provides $54.3 billion for K-12 education, $22.7 billion for higher education and additional funding at governors’ discretion to offset higher costs or state aid cuts.

The $720 million is double the $343 million CPS counted on its fiscal 2021 budget approved over the summer but officials also warn of ongoing fiscal pressure from the pandemic that will hurt future revenues and endanger state aid.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

13 Comments »
  1. - Almost the weekend - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 11:48 am:

    It is hindsight but it is absolutely ridiculous Sullivan was let go at AG, while the past 8-9 months IDES and IDVA have been an absolute mess, and there has been no change in leadership.

    I don’t think Pritzker’s team realizes how tough 2022 is going to be. 2019 was a great year for them, but nobody is going to remember those leg accomplishments if this keeps up.


  2. - Colin O'Scopy - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 11:49 am:

    Unfortunately, I was a victim of UI fraud about 2 weeks ago. What I don’t understand is why IDES sends a “verification letter” two days before the KeyBank card is sent, even if no money is loaded on the card.

    Is there anyone within IDES verifying these claims before state monies are sent out? It can’t be that hard.


  3. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 11:50 am:

    - Almost the weekend - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 11:48 am:

    You must be dense since the IDES director started in August.


  4. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 11:50 am:

    - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 11:50 am:

    Correct, July.


  5. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 11:51 am:

    - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 11:50 am:

    Correction*

    Spelling and grammar doesn’t transfer over to 2021 apparently.


  6. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 1:05 pm:

    What everyone should be concerned with is what has Covid done to the commercial real estate market. I know multiple businesses that have forever changed their business plans and employees will no longer be going into an office. This will also affect parking garages and public transit. This isn’t going to end well I am afraid.


  7. - Mount Prospect - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 1:30 pm:

    The Pritzker administration owns the Unemployment fraud debacle. After four months, the office still has no way to verifiably report the fraud. Oh sure, you can leave your name and number on a answering machine. Or send a letter. Can’t even send an email.

    How about a simple website that simply takes relevant information and then sends an email to confirm the receipt?

    Is Mike Madigan in charge of IDES technology too?


  8. - thechampaignlife - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 1:37 pm:

    I received an IDES letter last week addressed to a name I did not recognize but using my address. Not knowing what else to do, I put it back in the mail as Return to Sender. I did the same with what I presume was the benefits card that came 2 days later.

    I know fed rules might be impede addressing this, but some simple sanity checks that the address is the same as their last tax return (for employee and employer) would help narrow the focus to just scammers and those that actually did move recently. In the latter case, a letter to both the previous and new addresses for the employer and employee, with an easy way to report something being off, with a 2 week delay before sending out the benefits would likely put this to rest.


  9. - Jason - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 2:29 pm:

    - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 1:05 pm:

    The positive part is that the roads are clear and we may have solved the unsolvable traffic problem that polluted our cities and kept people away from living and their families.

    Working from home saves companies money in several ways and employees are productive because they want to keep working from home and don’t have the long commute

    There are many positives. Families are now having dinner together again instead of sitting in traffic jams at dinner time

    Things always change but this is not a bad change


  10. - Chambanalyst - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 2:49 pm:

    Champaign-Urbana resident bias skewing this but when I saw UI Fraud I initially thought it was going to be a story about fraud at the University of Illinois.


  11. - Rene - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 3:19 pm:

    @Chambanalyst…that’s the only reason I pulled this edition up. \_O_/


  12. - Jason - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 3:22 pm:

    Mount Prospect

    There are a lot of negatives, no doubt. However, there are good things. If you take a long look at history, things always change and in my view, society will be better off with many people working from home. I am currently doing both. Basically, a hybrid approach that my employer plans on being a permanent plan. A regular two hour each way commute now takes me 30 minutes on average and that is once every two weeks while I work at home the other nine days. After the pandemic, they plan to keep this permanently. The Covid-19 virus is horrible and I wish we never would have had to go through this. I know people who have had it and others who have died. My point is that while this is a bad situation when we come out in the other side, the ones that survive, we will be living in a different world and not everything about it is bad including less traffic and pollution and commute times along with many having changed our jobs to work from home positions. The commute was getting worse and worse every year around many cities and that may be gone forever. Basically, the unsolvable traffic problem is solved.


  13. - Lynn S. - Monday, Jan 4, 21 @ 9:15 pm:

    Chambanalyst,

    I had the same thought (banned punctuation).


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