Illinois overpaid millions in unemployment benefits during the pandemic; now there’s a way to keep the money.

IDES

From Chicago Tribune –

If you’re one of the 76,000 Illinois residents who received $123 million in excess regular unemployment benefits since the pandemic hit, you may be able to keep the money — as long as you haven’t already repaid it.

Signed into law Friday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, new legislation allows people who were overpaid unemployment benefits through no fault of their own during the pandemic to apply for a permanent waiver that would prevent the state from recovering the extra funds.

The state’s largesse is part of a broader measure to address the rampant flaws, fraud and backlogs at the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which has struggled to handle an unprecedented influx of unemployment claims during the pandemic.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, it prompted a statewide stay-at-home order for everything but essential businesses, and waves of furloughs and layoffs. Last year, the state paid out nearly $19.7 billion in unemployment benefits to about 1.5 million recipients, both annual records for Illinois, according to IDES spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco.

Getting through to the unemployment office with issues filing claims was an acute problem during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the ranks of the newly unemployed swelled. Complicating the communications breakdown, IDES offices across the state have remained closed throughout the pandemic.

The new legislation, HB 2643, offers relief to those who unknowingly pocketed the excess and can’t afford to pay it back by forgiving overpayments made between March 8, 2020, and the end of the gubernatorial COVID-19 disaster declaration. The state will waive repayment only if the excess funds were paid through no fault of the recipient and “recoupment would be against equity and good conscience,” the bill states.

Applications for a waiver must be filed within 45 days of notification from the state that benefits were overpaid.

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