* This is a very well-written piece by Joe Mahr at the Tribune. Here’s an excerpt, but you should read the whole thing…
Records obtained by the Tribune show the flood of fraud happened after IDES failed to follow federal recommendations to adopt free fraud-fighting tools that were made available in 2019. Only recently did the agency begin using those tools. A separate process to help identify problematic claims also didn’t become fully functional until February, nearly a year into the pandemic.
At the same time, Illinois has not joined some other states in implementing safeguards meant to detect and stop sketchy claims at the door, before they are accepted into an overburdened system. Though critics say these methods can cause problems by interfering with legitimate claims, some officials in other states credit them with significantly decreasing fraud.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security has yet to report how much money it believes was siphoned away. But if the amount tracks with national estimates, it could involve billions of dollars.
In Illinois, the fraud became so rampant last year that it overwhelmed IDES as its top leadership was undergoing a transition. Five months into her new job as IDES’ top administrator, Kristin Richards lamented to her staff in a December email that she was “stunned by fraudsters’ tenacity.”