SPRINGFIELD – State unemployment officials are cross-checking their rolls with prisons and jails to cull people who collect benefits but don’t qualify for them.
So far they’ve identified about 420 people whose names appear on both lists.
The cross-check, prompted by a House resolution, has been under way about two weeks.
Illinoisans who receive unemployment benefits must certify every two weeks, by phone or online, they were available for work the previous two weeks.
In numerous scenarios, a person’s name could show up on a jail log while he legitimately qualifies for benefits – weekend jail time and evening incarceration, for example. Officials are interested in finding people who are jailed, unable to work and have certified they qualify for benefits or have asked someone else to certify them on their behalf.
The initiative is in line with the agency’s focus on “trust-fund integrity,” said Greg Rivara, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Businesses pay into the unemployment fund, and their contribution levels are set according to several factors, including the fund balance.
“So dollars that inappropriately go out of the fund and are wrongfully paid to claimants have a direct effect on businesses because part of their payment is based on the balance of the trust fund,” Rivara said.
The cross-check will occur on a continuous basis and is expected to save up to $200 million a year. About 253,000 Illinoisans receive unemployment benefits. Officials are comparing those names to an inmate list of about 65,000.
Jayette Bolinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.