The recent, highly critical audit of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) confirmed that the agency lost a majority of the state’s $3.6 billion Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) funds—over $1.9 billion—to fraud.
State Representative Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) called this “emblematic of Illinois government during the Pritzker era.” She explained, “Our office fielded thousands of calls from desperate residents and businesses who couldn’t get any unemployment benefits or COVID relief funds. They were losing their jobs, their housing. But on Governor Pritzker’s watch, $1.9 billion waltzed out the door, no questions asked.”
Mazzochi has criticized Democrats in the legislature for abdicating their oversight role over Governor Pritzker and how agencies have been run on his watch. “The Auditor General’s office described the accounting at this agency as so ‘horrendous’ that they can’t conduct a proper audit. This should set off alarm bells all across the state,” Rep. Mazzochi said.
Mazzochi identified a fundamental solution to the problem with legislation, HB 2558, which would require IDES to include extra security levels to online UI benefit filing to help ferret out fraudulent claims. However, she pointed out that the legislation shouldn’t even have been necessary. “Fraud can arise anytime you have online applications. While Governor Pritzker tries to blame this on the Trump administration, a 2021 Chicago Tribune investigation found that IDES failed to follow federal recommendations to use fraud-fighting tools that were both free and available pre-pandemic, and was slow in developing other processes to prevent fraud. IDES refused to use even the most basic 2-factor authentication to avoid false claims and identity theft. It is ridiculous that the state spent over $25 million for its online system to process claims, but failed to put these most rudimentary, and free, security measures in place.”
House Democrats refused to consider HB 2558, sending the legislation to a subcommittee to die. Mazzochi reiterated, “Everyone knows that Illinois state government is a poster child for waste, fraud and abuse. The majority party’s refusal to engage in oversight and basic good governance standards is a big reason why. Our people deserve better.”