holmes UI 053121SPRINGFIELD – After an unprecedented 14 months for the Illinois Department of Employment Security with thousands of residents out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate passed a bipartisan reform package Sunday led by Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) to overhaul the way the department addresses unemployment benefits claims.

“This represents an agreement by business and labor groups along with IDES, to fix the state’s unemployment system,” said Holmes. “It aims to correct the flaws revealed in a system that wasn’t designed to address the job losses, customer service problems, and fraudulent claims that hit the state all at once during the pandemic.”

House Bill 2643 revises the Unemployment Insurance Act to allow IDES to communicate with legislators’ offices about specific constituent cases and require IDES to give more information to those issued overpayments about their right to appeal. It also extends temporary benefits to non-instructional education staff until federal benefits expire on Sept. 4.

Additionally, the measure requires IDES to report fraudulent claims that may affect victims’ income tax filings to the Illinois Department of Revenue, as well as prohibits IDES from disclosing someone’s full social security number in any correspondence to protect applicants’ private information and reduce the risk of fraud.

The legislation also includes provisions to allow beneficiaries who have been victims of fraud to seek overpayment waivers for benefits they did not apply for.

The package integrates ideas from a number of senators from both sides of the aisle and both chambers of the Illinois legislature, including Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago), Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest), Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego), Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Western Springs), Representative Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore), and Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-Portage Park).

House Bill 2643 has now passed both chambers and now awaits the governor’s signature to become law.

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