As Illinois Senate committee prepares hearing on unemployment, employers and employees want answers

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(The Center Square) – A virtual hearing Wednesday of the Illinois Senate Labor Committee will focus on the issue of unemployment insurance. A group representing small and independent employers has some major concerns they hope are addressed.

There are stories all across the state of the problems plaguing the state’s unemployment agency.

Kurt Mika works in human resources in Glen Elynn and retains his job. He said he was notified someone took out benefits in his name. He was then told to pay back money he never received and never requested.

“Anybody who was in the state could look at my unemployment taxes being withheld and look and say ‘you know what, this person has never been out of work, let’s put a hold on this one’,” Mika said.

He said the fraud that took place in his name could be substantial and worries the amount of fraud that hasn’t been found across the state and the money stolen will be massive.

The state claims it has stopped nearly a million fraudulent claims, but has not put a dollar figure on it.

Though Mika’s case hasn’t been resolved, he said as an HR professional he knows the channels to work. He feels for those who don’t have that knowledge.

“You feel violated,” Mika said. “That’s not just an unemployment claim, but what else is coming. Right? I’ve got enough on my plate. I’m at home with my kids. Things are going on. I’m taking care of a parent, you know, whatever it might be. People are stressed out and then they’ve got something like this.”

National Federation of Independent Business Illinois State Director Mark Grant said he has two big concerns. One is the cost businesses are expected to cover for the historic unemployment payouts.

“Now, I understand, it will end up being somewhat on them, and they’re going to have to pay some, but we want to be as equitable as possible across the board on this,” Grant said.

The state has borrowed billions of dollars to pay out more than $19 billion in benefits since the pandemic, and government restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 has slowed economic activity.

Another concern Grant said employers and their employees have is the levels of unemployment fraud.

“That should not factor into the cost and so we’re going to have to stand our ground on that,” Grant said.

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Politics

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February 9, 2021 at 02:39PM

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