Rep. Hamilton Calls for Public Hearings on IDES Fraud Covid-19 Payments

State Representative Sandy Hamilton (R-Springfield) is calling for hearings immediately in light of the new audit showing that almost $2 billion in federal funds were paid out through fraudulent Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims by the Illinois Department of Unemployment Security (IDES).

“I personally know several small business owners who have been directly impacted by these unemployment fraud schemes,” said Rep. Sandy Hamilton. “It’s heart wrenching to know the magnitude of this problem. IDES has to be held accountable to the fullest extent!”

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was created to help people not usually covered by unemployment insurance, such as self-employed and gig workers, but according to a new audit, more than half of the $3.6 billion IDES paid out from a special pandemic unemployment fund went to the pockets of fraudsters instead of unemployed Illinoisans desperately in need of relief. The audit found that out of a total of $3.6 billion in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds paid out between July 2020 and June 2021, nearly $1.9 billion was tied to fraud.

According to the Chicago Tribune, this audit may not even show the full scope of pandemic-related fraud in Illinois. Under another federally funded program that boosted claim checks the state paid out an additional $3.8 billion. The audit also doesn’t address the thousands of Illinoisans whose names and accounts were improperly used to hijack legitimate claims.

“The response to customers impacted by fraud from IDES has been very slow or non-existent, with little ability for victims to reach anyone via the web or phone – even after fraud reports are filed,” added Rep. Sandy Hamilton. “No doubt, unemployment systems, call centers, and processors are overwhelmed in most states right now and the situation does not appear to be getting better at this time. We need committee hearings to learn the full extent of this problem. The time is now!”

IDES has previously been criticized for failing to make use of free resources to fight fraud that were made available before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for being slow to develop processes to prevent fraud.