Update from Senator Bennett: July 28

Upcoming Events:


Wednesday, August 2, 2023 | 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Saratoga Elementary School (Gymnasium): 4040 N. Division St. Morris, IL 60450

Join State Sen. Tom Bennett, State Sen. Sue Rezin, State Rep. Jed Davis, and State Rep. Jason Bunting to discuss programs and services that benefit seniors.

Free admission, free refreshments, and free screenings! Vaccinations and blood pressure checks will be available.  

State Senator Tom Bennett Announces Retirement

Senator Bennett shared earlier this week the news that he will be retiring after his term ends at the completion of the 103rd General Assembly in January 2025. “Today is not the end of my work as a Senator, it is simply the beginning of the sprint to the finish,” said Sen. Bennett. “I have a lot of legislative work left to do and a lot of people yet to meet. Because, as I learned from a friend a long time ago: it’s all about the people.”

IDES Audit Shows Severe Overspending of $5.24 Billion

On July 26, the Illinois Auditor General released a 156-page-report on the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) in response to a resolution filed by State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) calling for a full performance audit of the state’s handling of the unemployment system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The scathing report shows overpayments to the tune of $5.24 billion from fiscal years 2020 to 2022. Approximately $2.04 billion was paid in unemployment insurance, with the remaining $3.2 billion coming from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). From those overpayments, only $551.7 million has been recovered, approximately 10%. Unfortunately, those numbers cannot be entirely confirmed by the IDES, which means that these numbers could be understated.

The report also found that beginning in March 2020, IDES suspended some routine identity cross-matches, performed on all regular UI claims filed, to prevent fraud in order to handle the increase in claims processing traffic. Unfortunately, the side effect of rushing the approval process seems to have left the unemployment programs more susceptible to fraud.

Furthermore, IDES did not implement one of the tools strongly recommended in May 2020 by the US Department of Labor until September 2021, alongside the suspension of other required and recommended cross-matches early in the pandemic. Even worse, IDES is continuing to still ignore select Department of Labor recommendations made in October 2021 and February 2022, including additional cross-matches that could be used to combat fraud.

Overall, Sen. Bennett says the report shows that the IDES prioritized decreasing unemployment claim response times over ensuring accuracy in their payments. Despite their focus on responding quickly, however, the IDES still failed to meet federal timeliness standards in 2021 and 2022.

Giannoulias Implementing Skip-the-Line Program at Busiest DMVs

The Illinois Secretary of State released a new Skip-the-Line program earlier this week. This program will change quite a bit about our local DMVs. Instead of allowing walk-ins for REAL ID requests, driver’s license and ID card services, and in-car driving test, several facilities will now require appointments to be made in advance. DMVs that are affected that people in the 53rd district may be using are Bloomington, Morris, and Peoria. In addition, all DMVs in the state will change their hours of operation to Monday through Friday, except for 16 who will also be open Saturday morning. All of this will go into effect in a little over a month on September 1.

Click here for more information.

Several Available DCEO Grants Application Deadlines Are Approaching

There are many little-known grants from the Department of Commerce Economic Opportunity (DCEO) for workforce programs and training with open applications right now and funding is still available for several. However, within the next month, several of those grants will reach their deadlines.

Digital Equity Capacity Kickstarter Grant Program

For this grant, the DCEO is seeking nonprofit organizations, local governments, public libraries, and school districts that will promote low-cost broadband programs, provide training on digital literacy, provide access to computers, or advance a community’s broadband access vision and goals. A total amount of $1 million is available, and awards may range from $30,000 to $300,000, with matching funds encouraged but not required. In order to be considered, entities must be pre-qualified, and you can find more information about it online. The application can be completed and submitted online, but the deadline is August 1 at 5 p.m. CST.

Energy Transition Navigators Program

In this program, selected Navigator Teams will connect individuals to the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) workforce and contractor programs and provide outreach and recruitment. Applicants should be nonprofit organizations with a history of serving low-wage or low-skilled workers or individuals from economically disadvantaged communities, and one team will be selected per each of the 13 regional hubs. A total of $6 million is available, with awards ranging from $250,000 to $600,000. The DCEO does request that applicants submit a notice of intent to apply online by July 27 at 5 p.m. and applicants must also be pre-qualified, but applications are not due until August 15 at 5 p.m. and can also be submitted online.

Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program

The DCEO will select nonprofits, including public colleges or universities, that will recruit, prescreen, and provide pre-apprenticeship skills training to help underrepresented populations successfully transition into full apprenticeship programs in construction and building trades. To fill current gaps in the program, the DCEO is especially looking for sites in Sangamon, Peoria, McLean, DeKalb, Kankakee, LaSalle, Rock Island, Whiteside, Marion, Lawrence, and Jackson counties as well as suburban Chicagoland. In total, $10 million will be offered with grants between $55,000 and $550,000. Like the other programs, pre-qualification is required and a notice of interest to apply should be submitted online. Applications will be open until August 30 at 5 p.m. and are also available to submit online.

A list of all open DCEO grants can be found on its website.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $865,589,007.80 to  state vendors, including 12,370 pending vouchers. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $139 billion. At the same time last year, the state’s accounts payable stood at a little less than $2 billion.

Did You Know?

This month of July has set records with its hot heat waves. It is poised to be the hottest month recorded in history. This week we have been under an excessive heat watch/warning with an index of 110 or greater. Here are 4 things you can do to beat the heat!

Stay cool with H.E.A.T

H: Hydrate (Try to decrease your intake of caffeinated and sugary beverages. Make sure you are drinking at least 3 bottles of water.)

E: Events at night (The temperature is cooler in the evening.)

A: Attire (Wear hats when outside and cool clothing)

T: Time outs (Do not be afraid or embarrassed to take a break if you feel like you are overheating. It is important to pace yourself in this heat.)

This Week in the 53rd District

State Senator Tom Bennett – Working full-time to represent you!

Tom Bennett

Want to stay up to date with your Senator?

Sign up for the District E-Newsletter below: