Unemployment program problems; Preparing for spring floods

Some Illinoisans still waiting for unemployment answers one year later

As the pandemic hit and the lockdowns began, hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans lost their jobs. Many were forced into the state’s unemployment system as a way to make ends meet. But the system could not keep up with the demand, and many had to wait weeks for answers to their applications while their bills continued to pile up. Scammers filing fraudulent applications jammed up the system even more. This was the number one issue which my office received calls about last year.

Thankfully the system has improved since then, and with the lockdowns lifted more people have been able to go back to work. But stories about the problems in the Department of Employment Security (IDES) system continue to this day. A Chicago television station recently ran a story about two Illinoisans who had their benefits ‘hijacked’ by scammers who switched their bank account information and began stealing their unemployment payments.

To make matters worse, when they reached out to IDES for help, the agency was slow to respond, and in one case continued sending money to the wrong account. One year later, the victims are still waiting for their benefits. We have to do better.

If you are a 106th district resident who is still having trouble with the unemployment system, please contact my office to see if we can help.

Spring flood season is underway

Every spring we see flooding somewhere in Illinois. Sometimes it is minor, other times it is destructive as snow melts and spring rains arrive. Already this year there have been flood warnings issued on several area rivers, including the Wabash and the Illinois. And as we learned in Gibson City last summer, you don’t have to be on a river to be affected by flooding. Floods have a particularly serious impact on our region as they not only damage property, but they also close roads and slow down spring farm work. In the worst cases they can endanger lives.

To help Illinoisans learn about how to prepare and how to deal with flooding, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency has put together a webpage with information about flooding. It provides information on the different kinds of flood statements and warnings from the National Weather Service, and tips for what to do before, during and after a flood to keep you and your family safe and to limit the damage. Click here to find out more.

Filling the gap in the unemployment insurance trust fund

Back in 2020, as the pandemic lockdowns closed businesses and forced hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans out of their jobs, Illinois joined many other states in borrowing billions of dollars from the federal government to meet the surge in applications for unemployment benefits. Last year many states used federal stimulus funds to repay the loans, but Illinois opted to spend those dollars on other projects. As a result, we did not repay the $4 billion debt by the September 2021 deadline, and interest began to accrue.

This week a House committee passed legislation to shift some federal ARPA funds to start filling the gap. It is unfortunate that we did not do this last fall before the debt was increased by so much due to interest.

Visiting the St. Paul’s Fish Fry

It was a beautiful and sunny (but cold) day over the weekend for the drive-through fish fry and pick-up at the St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Woodworth. They had a wonderful turnout – there was a continual line of cars. Thanks to everyone for their patience! This was a great cause and an important event for the school and the community. Thank you also to the 30+ volunteers who helped to make this happen. Well done!

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $4,358,067,325 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.6 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 $141 billion.

Did You Know?

While we have all seen enough snow over the past few months, this winter was not the snowiest on record in Illinois. According to the Illinois State Climatologist, our state’s snowiest winter was 1979, when 44.5 inches of snow fell. The total the year before was 44.4. Our least snowy winter was not that long ago, in 2012, when only 9.2 inches were measured, but the mild weather did not stick around. We bounced back just two years later in 2014 with our third-snowiest winter: 39.4 inches.

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