Department of Employment Security gets negative performance review
The Better Government Association (BGA) has released a study finding that the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) was not prepared for the more than two million unemployment claims which have been filed over the past seven months due to the coronavirus outbreak. Because of this lack of preparation many of those applying for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits had to contend with extremely long wait times before they could begin getting assistance checks. Illinoisans faced wait times considerably longer than those applying in other states.
The study looked at how many UI applications were able to be reviewed and checks mailed within seven days of an initial application. Before the pandemic IDES reached this goal about 80% of the time. But by this summer it was only getting UI benefits to applicants within seven days about 1% of the time. Meanwhile, household expenses continued to mount while applicants waited.
IDES also fell short in four other categories as measured by the U.S. Department of Labor and other federal agencies. These benchmarks included detection of overpayments or improper payments and steps taken to recover mistaken payments. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has been calling for public hearings into these failures, as they harm both the applicants who have to wait such a long time for benefits and the taxpayers who must swallow the costs of funds that are paid out in error. Other states have met the challenge posed by the pandemic. Illinois should look to their examples to improve our own system.
IHSA announces return of high school basketball
Last spring the pandemic hit just as the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) was set to kick off its state basketball tournament. Spring sports were cancelled, as well as football this fall. But this week the IHSA announced that it would be starting boys and girls basketball practices on November 16 and games on November 30. Read the full IHSA statement here. The Illinois State Board of Education issued its response on Thursday.
I have reached out to the IHSA to learn more about their plans for safely conducting a basketball season. They are engaging with school superintendents, and ultimately the decision of whether or not to participate will be made at the local level. Schools and sports are important parts of our communities and our society. Neighboring states have found ways to safely re-start high school sports, as has the Big Ten Conference with college sports. This must be done safely, however, and I was glad to see that the IHSA is prioritizing health and safety in its plan and also involving local school officials in the decision-making process.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,075,527,376 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.2 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $137 billion.
Remember to change your clocks!
Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, so be sure to set your clocks back an hour on Saturday night. Enjoy that extra hour of sleep!
The State Fire Marshal also advises that this is a good opportunity to test and inspect your smoke detectors.
More news from around the state
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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).