Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) wants the state to repay its debt used to keep the Illinois Department of Employment Security afloat to the feds now rather than later.
Caulkins and colleagues Rep. Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville), Rep. Martin McLaughin (R-Lake Barrington), Rep. Chris Miller (R-Robinson) and Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Effingham) took to YouTube March 18 to hold a roundtable discussion on IDES and the billions Illinois borrowed from the government to keep it viable.
“We knew last year that we were going to have to pay back over $5 billion that we had borrowed from the feds," Caulkins said. “The Democrats, rather than take the bull by the horns and deal with this last year decided that they didn't want to have to deal with this until July 1 of 2022. That's a problem because, on April 1 of this year, our exemption runs out on how to deal with funding the unemployment benefit fund.”
The Chicago Tribune reported the state owes $4.5 billion to the federal unemployment trust fund.
For months, Caulkins has been speaking out about IDES' failures to communicate with individuals seeking assistance to figure out unemployment benefit issues, and he's not happy about it.
Sen. Craig Wilcox (R-McHenry) is also vocal about IDES needing to pay Illinoisans’ unemployment.
“Real Illinoisans are still owed unemployment benefits, while money continues to be channeled to hackers,” Wilcox wrote on Facebook. “The kicker? (The Illinois Department of Employment Security) knew it was happening and did nothing to stop it. Complete incompetence allows this fraud to continue.”
Caulkins said in the video, “So here’s kind of where this lands. Right now the state of Illinois has an opportunity to use the federal funds that were given to us for COVID as a special carve-out to pay back this loan that we took to pay our resident’s unemployment benefits and the Democrats can’t bring themselves to not spend that money on social programs. They want to spend that money on everything except paying our debts now.
“If this was our home, what is the first thing you do? You pay the mortgage. You make the car payment. You pay your credit card bills. That's not what’s going on here in Springfield. We don't want to pay our bills with the money that we have available to pay them, we’d rather go out and start new social programs, spend this money on anything except what we should be spending it on," Caulkins said. "And what's going to happen is by stalling this out, the burden is going to fall on the business community. They’re the ones that are going to have to make up this deficit. And the people of this state are also going to have to pay the interest on this loan that's going to come out of the general revenue fund. That’s money – almost $1 million a day – that should be spent on schools, should be spent on our developmentally disabled, the people that are most dependent upon the government for services. But no we’re going to spend that money on interest on a loan that we have the money in hand to pay back, and that’s what I think is the crux of the problem.”
The Chicago Tribune reported the state owed $19.6 million in interest.
“Taxpayers should not be on the hook for interest just because the pandemic is lasting longer than projected,” Comptroller Susana Mendoza said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune. “States are wrestling with how best to replenish their COVID-depleted unemployment funds and they should not have to do that with the meter running.”
Last year, the state joined others to ask the federal government to freeze interest payments on loans taken out to pay unemployment bills.
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