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Our sorry state

Wednesday, Jun 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* 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.”

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  1. - Pardon Joe Kotlarz - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 5:25 am:

    Governors Own.

  2. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 7:28 am:

    If these fraud fighting measures were in place might it make system more efficient? It would seem to me if fraud was easy the system would be swamped with claims both fraudulent and legit slowing everything down. If it was known that fraud would be caught less fraudulent attempts and quicker service for legitimate claims that should be paid.

  3. - OneMan - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 8:08 am:

    It is an interesting article and I would suggest reading it.

    == IDES has said it stopped 2 million fake claims last year. But the agency says it doesn’t yet know how many got through, and how much money was stolen. ==

    As someone who had to deal with this, even though my employer and I both immediately informed the state and I filed a police report it appears the thief was able to get 2 weeks of benefits. Does this count as stopped?

    Fundamentally I think this is something that might be used in a campaign.

    “You tried to stop it, you did everything you could, but someone still managed to get money out of the state in your name”

    Yes, IDES is understaffed. Do you think when it comes to this people are going to care? Nope.

    In the words of OW and others, Governors Own.

  4. - Almost the Weekend - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 8:28 am:

    Deputy Saint we appreciate your service to the current administration but that word salad made zero sense. And if you recall 12-13 months ago the system was still a complete mess.

  5. - Nilwood - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 9:03 am:

    And the fraud continues. I received an email just this morning asking me to confirm details of my unemployment account to keep it from being closed. I closed it more than a year ago.

  6. - Shield - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 9:06 am:

    ==IDES notes that many states have yet to release similar figures. But some have, including California and Kansas. Beyond that, IDES did not provide documents and data sought by the Tribune that could shed light on the scope of the problem.==

    So how many states have and how many haven’t? That’s a critical piece of information that’s just brushed over.

    I would also note that there is a link in a story about the “Integrity Data Hub” that trumpets $243 million in stopped payments nationwide as of February 2021. That’s chump change when we are talking hundreds of billions nationwide.

  7. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 9:33 am:

    Better government and improving government costs money. Much of the political rhetoric in this state involves this idea that we can have nice things without paying what nice things cost and ignores that when we fail to invest in our government there consequence can be more expensive than the cost of the improvement would have been.

  8. - Collinsville Kevin - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 9:58 am:

    When I was collecting unemployment eleven years ago, they spent a huge effort chasing me down because I owed them one dollar. Guess times have changed.

  9. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 9:59 am:

    Yes. Governors own. Same as it was. Same as it will be.

    To the post, however…

    The owning by this administration is going to be a bit more politically painful for three big reasons;

    * Lack of ability to stop the rampant fraud

    * The nuance to stop the fraud is not what voters and victims want to hear

    * Even with a change in leadership, IDES is seen as a dismal failure hurting people today.

    I dunno how many folks anyone knows whom have been victimized, I know of a few. Not one, or a couple, a few.

    Between the LaSalle tragedy and our veterans, and IDES, it’s tough to stop, which Rich pointed out days ago, the negative hardening around the governor like a diamond.

    Throw in those who will never “get over” the pandemic because death to those not them is something *they* will get over and blame on the governor, it’s not that negatives seem few, it’s that negatives are rooting deep.

    Of course IDES is a political issue as well as a wonky failure and breach of security. Thinking big, it will be used to keep things like IDES small in the discussions of administration misses.

    The reckoning was thought to have happened with a leadership change, yet here we are still looking at IDES as an administrative mess effecting new people daily.

    The question to long term is if the damage politically is now so deep rooted, fixing it, as they will need to do, trying to do, might not resonate as a win in stopping the damage to what is, not arguably, but is, a failure.

    “We’ll see”, as things continue.

  10. - Just Another Anon - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:05 am:

    @ Candy
    >”free fraud-fighting tools that were made available in 2019″

    Sounds like the cost of improvement was free.

  11. - A Jack - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:16 am:

    And I was stunned by the IDES Director blaming the victims for identity theft.

  12. - Pizza Man - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:16 am:

    In addition to the IDVA fiasco with lost lives and mismanagement, this governor owns the IDES crisis, under Richards, in which this agency continues to sink due to rampant fraud, poor customer service, accountability to its residents while their district offices remain closed due to “security concerns.”

    Just great.

  13. - Just Me 2 - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:25 am:

    I love the part about the Director being unaware that fraudsters would be really smart at stealing free money. This should be a lesson for other liberals who love to create programs that give away free stuff.

  14. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:29 am:

    Stories like these are good reminders of the importance of journalism. Everyone could see Illinois had a fraud issue (and yes every state had one, but not to the extent seen here). Without journalism, the criticism was dismissed as partisan attacks. Now it’s clear to see Pritzker has a real issue.

  15. - Bob Meter - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:41 am:

    In Pritzker’s defense, it’s hard to take seriously anything being pushed out through the federal government in 2019.

  16. - Responsa - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:59 am:

    This is a great article but should not be a surprise. The personal stories were myriad and out there, and even on this site a number of commenters (me included) wrote of experiencing the fraud and ineptitude first hand of having false unemployment claims made in our names. Not only was the IDES system completely out of control and clogged, the people who could have tried to do something about it never seemed to express basic curiosity and urgency about fixing it. There were a few interesting human interest articles published over the months but journalists as a whole overlooked a whole lot of informative stories. They missed an opportunity to do some real good for the state by not challenging the governor and IDES spokespeople who were throwing their hands up while crying “what can we doooo–all the while posting as fact weekly “unemployment claim numbers” that any sentient being knew were not valid. Lourdes Duarte is one of the few journalists who can hold her head high over how she reported this mess.

  17. - DuPage - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:16 am:

    I get phony calls and texts every day from “Jesse White”, “Illinois Secretary of State”, “Illinois Department of Transportation”, all requesting information about my drivers license. Delete anything that asks for information.

  18. - CharlieKratos - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:32 pm:

    The state and feds should both also be looking into rampant PPP loan fraud.

  19. - Franklin - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:40 pm:

    Apples and oranges Charlie. PPP is a loan that can be forgiven by SBA if they believe it was properly used. If they suspect fraud or abuse and chose not to forgive it remains as a loan that must be repaid with interest.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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