How Illinois failed to stop a flood of unemployment fraud during the pandemic

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Jeff Mays left when Gov. J.B. Pritzker took office in January 2019. And the new administration didn’t immediately start using anti-fraud tools when they started to become available later that year.

Chicago Tribune – Under the Rauner administration, IDES was touting a computer upgrade it said provided a “modern and comprehensive fraud detection, prevention, and collection system.” IDES said the system was geared toward preventing people from continuing to collect unemployment after getting new jobs.

The IDES director at the time, Jeff Mays (pictured at left), recently told the Tribune the new system also ensured applicants weren’t using names of inmates or dead people, and even asked people to input the weight listed on their driver’s license or state ID, which was checked against a secretary of state’s office database.

“I don’t know of any state that was better positioned than us by the time we left, based on what we had done,” Mays said.

He said IDES also had plans to boost its efforts even more by using new, federally funded anti-fraud tools collectively called the Integrity Data Hub.

But Mays left when Gov. J.B. Pritzker took office in January 2019. And the new administration didn’t immediately start using the tools when they started to become available later that year.

Then the pandemic hit.

PUBLISHER’S DISCLOSURE NOTE: Muddy River News GM Bob Gough was the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s Information Strategy Director from August 2016 to April 2019.

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