Calling for IDES audit; Donating the pay raise

Representatives call for audit of IDES

Last month a data breach was discovered at the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) which exposed the personal information of thousands of applicants for aid under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. When a citizen discovered this breach, she made her state representative, Terri Bryant of Murphysboro, aware of the situation. Representative Bryant immediately contacted IDES but she did not receive sufficient answers. Nearly a week later, with still no adequate response, she took the lead in asking members of the General Assembly to join in calling on the administration to address the situation and protect the privacy of these Illinoisans. I was happy to follow her lead.

We still do not have adequate answers about whose information was published, how long it was out there and who was able to access it. To help raise awareness of the need for answers and action, I joined Representative Bryant and other members of the General Assembly in filing a resolution this week calling for an audit of IDES’ unemployment program by the Auditor General to help us take the appropriate action to safeguard Illinoisans and repair any damage that was done.

Donating the pay raise

Since last summer I have been donating my pay raise to different local non-profit agencies serving residents of our district. These local service agencies need help. Since the coronavirus outbreak struck, I have not been able to make these donations in person.  But with so many of our neighbors hurting, it is more important now than ever to provide help for those supporting our communities.

Mary Flott sent me this photo after she received the donation to the First Congregational UCC Feed the Kids Program in Dwight earlier this spring. I also received this photo from Diana Bowers and Bill Sparenberg of the Clifton Food Pantry. More than one million Illinoisans have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak and the resulting shutdowns. This has put an enormous strain on our food pantries as they work to help those struggling during this difficult time. I was glad to be able to help.

Another small business trying to hang on

Lindsay Carpenter opened Relax-Refresh-Renew Massage Therapy in Gibson City about a year ago. As 2020 began she was finally getting rolling: growing her business and looking to expand into a new building. When the coronavirus hit she was shut down because she was considered “non-essential.” But Lindsay disagrees. “During this stressful and constantly changing time, I feel that I could be of great help by relieving stress and helping reduce symptoms of depression,” she wrote. “As a small-town local business I can better control the amount of people that come into the premises; and being a massage therapist, cleanliness has always been a top priority.”

Lindsay has put together an 11-point plan for keeping her clients and employees safe, and has been in contact with the local health department to ensure that their standards are met and everyone is safe. But after many weeks of shutdown, and with no income, time is running out. She provides yet another example of a local small business willing to take whatever steps are necessary to safely re-open.

Update from Public Health

The Department of Public Health reported 974 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois yesterday. There were also 23 deaths reported in Illinois. This is the first time in more than a month that the Department reported fewer than 1000 new cases in a day in Illinois. Illinois now has 121,234 confirmed cases and has suffered 5412 deaths. Just over 20,000 tests were conducted in the 24 hours before the report, for a total of 918,273 statewide.

More news from around the state

Governor activates additional National Guard troops

Guidelines for businesses re-opening in Phase 3

Champaign-area unemployment jumped to double-digits

Department of Insurance: Help is available for people losing job-based health insurance

Illinois to offer free meals to children during summer break

For additional helpful resources, click here.

For continually updated news from state agencies, visit: coronavirus.illinois.gov or my website at repbennett.com and click on COVID-19 Info. Persons with coronavirus questions or concerns should call the statewide toll-free coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also submit questions via e-mail at dph.sick@illinois.gov.

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).