(The Center Square) – The Illinois Department of Employment Security has dealt with an avalanche of fraud cases during the pandemic and will soon have to undergo another audit.
The Legislative Audit Commission voted Wednesday to conduct another audit of the agency related to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program after June 30, 2020.
This is on the heals of another audit released in July by the Illinois Auditor General, which found errors in the distribution of federal pandemic assistance funds. In the report, IDES funneled nearly $155 million to potentially ineligible claimants from May 11 to June 30, 2020. Thousands of people who received money were deceased, younger than 13 or non-existent.
“We all realize that within the first few months of the pandemic, everyone was drinking water out of the proverbial fire hose, but this is outrageous,” said Senator Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said every state in the country dealt with the same problem and the federal government should hold some of the blame.
“The federal program is the one that got hacked some the $150 million that you are talking about, out of the billions of dollars that have been distributed in Illinois were federal program dollars,” Pritzker said.
The audit said: “The department (IDES) failed to implement general Information Technology controls over the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance System.”
Officials with the agency have yet to report how much money they believe has been siphoned away by fraud, but there have been estimates of close to a $1 billion.
Experts had been sounding the alarm about the state’s vulnerable systems for years. One was Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions Government Group, who said Pritzker needs to fix these issues before the state faces another crisis.
“It is really going to take his leadership to get in there and really get this thing cleaned out, or they are going to continue to squander public funds,” Talcove said.
Some IDES offices recently reopened, but many remain closed and those that are open are by appointment only.
“I think the need for this followup audit is obvious,” Rose said. “We need to dig in and figure out what on earth actually happened at IDES, what is continually happening at IDES, and I think more importantly, what are we going to do about this.”