Another 25,000 Illinoisans file for unemployment benefits amid calls for public hearings

(The Center Square) – Another 25,000 Illinoisans filed for unemployment benefits last week and with continued problems benefits, some want public hearings to hold the Pritzker administration accountable.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday nearly 25,000 Illinois workers filed for unemployment benefits last week. While that’s around 8,500 fewer than the week before, it’s still more than 1.4 million who have filed for benefits since the beginning of March.

It’s not just the large number who’ve filed and the ongoing problems that seem to plague the system for people to get those benefits, it’s also the more than 120,000 instances of unemployment fraud Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday his administration found. Some are calling for answers.

State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said his constituents are still having issues with the state’s unemployment system. He said he has a couple of dozen questions for the state’s unemployment system.

“Questions such as ‘what’s our relationship with Deloitte as a consultant with this, what’s the contract, how much are we paying them, what are they doing,’” Murphy said. “I have a lot of questions about Keybank. It seems like every time there’s a problem Keybank’s name is mentioned.”

Murphy was set to ask questions of Pritzker administration officials this week, but that closed-to-the-public Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission meeting was canceled because no one was made available.

Pritzker was asked why no one from his administration was made available.

“We provide a report to the commission,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “That’s what’s required by the law and we talk regularly with the leaders of the commission and the members of that commission. They have the ability to hold their meetings anytime.”

Murphy said that doesn’t cut it. He demanded a full legislative hearing from the State Government Administration Committee.

“This is something that will not happen, be taken care of in a 75-minute Restore Illinois commission meeting. We need to be able to have [the Pritzker administration] held accountable,” Murphy said.

Chairperson of the State Government Administration Committee, state Rep. Stephani Kifowit, D-Oswego, has the authority to schedule an open committee hearing, but she said she has reservations.

“Due to COVID it’s just not that easy to call a subject matter hearing like we used to do in the past so we just want to make sure everybody is safe and procedures are done right and have a clear agenda for when we do call it,” Kifowit said.

Last month the Joint Legislative Audit Commission held a hearing at the capitol in Springfield with some members in person and others remote. Witnesses and a pool media representative were allowed, but no one else. Attendees had to submit to COVID-19 screenings.

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