IDES Audit Shows Severe Overspending of $5.24 Billion
On July 26, the Illinois Auditor General released a 156-page-report on the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) in response to a resolution filed by State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) calling for a full performance audit of the state’s handling of the unemployment system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scathing report shows overpayments to the tune of $5.24 billion from fiscal years 2020 to 2022. Approximately $2.04 billion was paid in unemployment insurance, with the remaining $3.2 billion coming from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). From those overpayments, only $551.7 million has been recovered, approximately 10%. Unfortunately, those numbers cannot be entirely confirmed by the IDES, which means that these numbers could be understated.
The report also found that beginning in March 2020, IDES suspended some routine identity cross-matches, performed on all regular UI claims filed, to prevent fraud in order to handle the increase in claims processing traffic. Unfortunately, the side effect of rushing the approval process seems to have left the unemployment programs more susceptible to fraud.
Furthermore, IDES did not implement one of the tools strongly recommended in May 2020 by the US Department of Labor until September 2021, alongside the suspension of other required and recommended cross-matches early in the pandemic. Even worse, IDES is continuing to still ignore select Department of Labor recommendations made in October 2021 and February 2022, including additional cross-matches that could be used to combat fraud.
Overall, State Senator Terri Bryant says the report shows that the IDES prioritized decreasing unemployment claim response times over ensuring accuracy in their payments. Despite their focus on responding quickly, however, the IDES still failed to meet federal timeliness standards in 2021 and 2022.
Federal judge halts Illinois law targeting crisis pregnancy centers
On Thursday, August 3, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of Illinois’ newly signed Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act (Senate Bill 1909).
The lawsuit brought by the National Institute of Family Life Advocates asserts that this law was designed to target pregnancy help ministries solely because of their pro-life message.
When issuing the injunction, the judge stated that “the bill is painfully and blatantly a violation of the First Amendment,” and “there’s no doubt who the Attorney General wants to win or lose in the market place of ideas, but the government doesn’t get to decide that. The people do.”
Senator Bryant opposed Senate Bill 1909 during Senator floor debate as she felt the legislation was “nothing more than a shameless attempt to force the Majority Party’s pro-abortion views upon everyone who disagrees and put pregnancy centers, which don’t provide abortion services, out of business.”
The next court date is scheduled for August 21. The injunction will remain in place until the federal judge lifts the injunction order, makes their final ruling, or the injunctions is appealed and overturned by a higher court.
Illinois Secretary of State Unveils Skip-the-Line Program
The Secretary of State’s Office has revealed more information about the new Skip-the-Line program that will be instituted in many Illinois DMVs across the state come September 1. This program consists of several parts, most notably, it requires customers to make appointments at several DMVs across the state for certain services and eliminates walk-ins.
In less than one month, customers will only be required to make appointments for in-person visits to get REAL IDs, driver’s licenses and ID card services, and in-car driving tests at 44 of the just over 120 state DMVs. Other vehicle-related services will not need to make an appointment. All appointments can be made either online or by calling (844) 817-4649. Instructions for scheduling an appointment are available online.
Meanwhile, the hours of operation at all facilities will also change. All DMVs statewide will now be open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Additionally, 16 DMVs will also be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Those facilities are the Chicago North, Chicago South, Deerfield, Lombard, Midlothian, Naperville, Schaumburg, West Chicago (Commercial Driver’s Licenses only), Bloomington, Champaign, Granite City, Marion (with CDL), Moline/Silvis (with CDL), Peoria (with CDL), Rockford Central, and Springfield Wabash (with CDL).
IDNR Applications for OSLAD Program Grant Application Open
Applications are now being accepted for the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Grant (OSLAD) program. The OSLAD Program through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is a state-financed grant program that provides funding assistance to local government agencies for acquisition and/or development of land for public parks and open space.
All local governments must be authorized by Illinois law to spend public funds for those purposes. School districts are ineligible. These projects can vary from smaller neighborhood parks to larger community or county parks or nature areas.
Under this program, most grants will only cover up to 50% of approved project costs. However, for those in economically distressed communities the amount can be increased to 100% of costs. A list of those communities can be found online. Grants for acquisition projects can be awarded up to $1.725 million, while development or renovation projects are limited to a maximum of $600,000. All applications must be submitted prior to 5:00 p.m. on Aug 31. There are multiple steps to completing an application, however it can be started online.
Upcoming Senior Fairs
State Senator Terri Bryant is partnering with her local state representatives to host Senior Health Fairs in Red Bud and Mt. Vernon on August 8 and August 9.
These events are completely free to the public and will have a variety of local vendors on hand to discuss programs and services that benefit seniors.