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Ranking Among Worst In Nation, Illinois State Unemployment Office Failing To Report Fraud Info

CHICAGO (CBS) -- They won't share the information with us, but now CBS 2 has learned the state isn't sharing unemployment fraud info with your elected officials and the Department of Labor, either.

Illinois is one of the two worst states in the country, lagging way behind in reporting issues related to unemployment fraud in the federal program created during the pandemic, according to the Department of Labor.

CBS 2's Tara Molina has been investigating this for more than a year and first reported on the issue earlier this month.

States bigger than Illinois are getting this fraud info to the feds quickly, so what's the deal in Illinois? And why can't the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) put a cost on the fraud issue?

We're asking tonight and so is a state senator, who's been waiting on the same information for months.

"The people of this state deserve answers," said 53rd District State Sen. Jason Barickman. "They've waited much too long."

Barickman says he still can't get answers from the unemployment office. "It begs the question of what people are hiding," he said.

He, along with four other lawmakers, sent a letter to IDES back in February, demanding, in part, more information on the fraud issue.

He wants to know how many fraudulent claims exist,  the cost of those claims and how much has the state paid out. "We still can't answer those questions," he said.

They're questions we've asked and answers we've worked to get, too.

In the one interview IDES has granted us, since the start of the pandemic, we asked Acting Director Kristin Richards back in March how much unemployment fraud has cost the state.

"We are working hard to quantify that number," she told us then.

Now an update from the feds. A report from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General that says Illinois' unemployment department couldn't keep up with the federal help offered to those who lost their jobs to the pandemic--through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program.

That program helped those who didn't qualify for regular unemployment, such as independent contractors or self-employed.

Now we've learned Illinois is the lagging behind 48 other states, the second-worst in the country in reporting the fraud plaguing that program and where the state has claimed fraud issues are worst.

IDES hasnt reported to the Department of Labor since January, according to a spokesperson.

Our state spokesperson has told us when it comes to the fraud issue overall, they're still working on numbers, with the Department of Labor requiring that information for the first time in program history.

Barickman said, that after months, "taxpayers ultimately deserve to know the magnitude of the fraud."

The original report from earlier this month did show Illinois succeeded in some areas, among the best in adding the $600 weekly benefit and the extra, federal, weeks of unemployment compensation.

IDES did not return a request for comment on today's report.  In a previous statement, IDES said:

As IDES has stated to anyone who has requested this figure, these numbers are still being scrubbed and quantified. For the first time in program history, USDOL is asking states to report these numbers, which means the Department will and must provide it to USDOL when we arrive at a figure we are confident is accurate. Illinois, among many, many other states, is still working to get this number correct, particularly as we break it out by program. When this number has been reported to USDOL, it will become public, and you will have access to it.

Statement from the U.S. Department of Labor:

We confirm that the latest ETA 902P report available for Illinois is January 31, 2021. Illinois has submitted other reports for the regular UI program (the ETA 5159) through May 2021.

States are expected to submit the ETA 902P Reports to the Department of Labor on the 30th of the month following the month to which data relates. The Department recognizes that many states continue to struggle with timely reporting as they handle competing priorities during the pandemic. We continue to work with states to ensure they file these reports.

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