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State Senators Grill IDES Officials About Ongoing Unemployment Issues

CHICAGO (CBS) --  CBS 2 has been trying for months to get the Illinois Department of Employment Security to answer your questions about fraud, overpayments and the chronically slow callback system. Finally Wednesday there were a few answers, but also a lot more sidestepping, as senators grilled IDES leaders.

At Wednesday's hearing a big topic of discussion was fraud. IDES just announced cases shot up by another 138,000 in less than a month, now totaling 1.1 million fraudulent claims. But when asked how many taxpayer dollars went into fraudsters' pockets, acting IDES Director Kristin Richards would not say.

"We are working to quantify the extent to which there were any payments made on those fraudulent claims," she said.

IDES now has a plan for those with overpayments. Forms will be sent out on Feb 15. Those who have paid back overpayments through decreased weekly payments from IDES, will also get that money back.

"If that has happened to anyone, after their request for waiver of the overpayment is approved, then the agency will be in the process to find a way to return the money that we have recouped," said Kevin Lovellette with IDES.

IDES says 60% of overpayments can be attributed to identity theft. State Sen. Jason Plummer (R-54th District) asked who is responsible for these overpayments.

"Did Deloitte incorrectly calculate, or did someone incorrectly calculate benefits, the result of the overpayment? Where did it start?" he asked.

It took IDES 11 seconds to begin to answer the question.

"As far as the, that that, I'm certain, that, that there's liability all around," said Justin Brissette with IDES.

Senators also had questions about the frustrating phone system and constituents not getting calls back. In July callbacks were promised quickly. People we've spoken to say they've been waiting for weeks.

"I don't understand, at this point, why we can't narrow that window," said State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-52nd District).

"I have to tell you, Senator, that's the first time that I've heard that suggestion, and I'm making notes," said Richards.

A question that still remains unanswered is how much has been paid to scammers. IDES will have to wait for ongoing criminal investigations to catch the criminals to try to get any of that money back.

We've also learned, the fraud unit staff has gone from 13 to 20. One hundred more contracted workers have also been hired to handle fraud calls, employer emails and verification, which are required for pandemic unemployment claims.


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