Thank you for taking the time to read this edition of “Schmidt’s Spotlight.” I’m excited to share a variety of things with you today, from a local event I have coming up to important news about IDES and the “Safe-T Act.”
As always, it’s an honor to serve as your State Representative. If there’s any way that I can serve you, please feel free to visit my district office in Cahokia Heights or call 618-215-1050.
State Representative Kevin Schmidt
August 3rd Blood Drive in O’Fallon
RI invites you to come to his blood drive that I’m hosting with ImpactLife.
Give blood, save lives! YOU can make a difference. For questions, please call my office at (618)-215-1050.
Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are strongly encouraged to avoid a long wait time.
Sign up for an appointment at:
All donors who present to give blood will be given a voucher at registration and eligible to get their choice of an electronic gift card or a donation to support local teachers. Donations will be made through ImpactLife’s partnership with AdoptAClassroom.org.
Gift card value changes depending on type of planned donation (procedure or deferral):
Whole blood procedure: $10 gift card (or $10 donation)
Double red procedure (any): $25 gift card (or $25 donation)
- Electronic gift cards will arrive via email from email@example.com within 3 business days of voucher redemption. Options include: Amazon, Applebee’s®, Darden Restaurants (includes Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, and more), the Home Depot®, Lowe’s, Target®, Subway®, Starbucks, Walmart. Physical gift cards available on demand.
- AdoptAClassroom.org is a national nonprofit that funds PreK-12 teachers and schools across the U.S. to help equip classrooms and students for success. The 501(c)(3) holds the highest 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and the highest transparency rating offered by Candid/GuideStar. At the end of this promotion, ImpactLife will distribute all donated funds among selected PreK-12 educators in public, private, and charter schoolteachers across the ImpactLife service region via AdoptAClassroom.org. Additional info built out at bloodcenter.org/teach.
Around the District
I’ve been active in his district, eager to meet and engage with my constituents. Here is a gallery of highlights of my time spent among the people of District 114 recently.
Pictured with Anthony Tarvin from TAKE
Pictured at a Dupo Chamber of Commerce Event
Pictured at SIU’s Engineering Program’s Graduation Ceremony
Pictured with Zachary Chike from City of Joy Fellowship
Pictured with Bhagya Kolli and Elizabeth Patton Whiteside from East Side Health District Preventive Health and Education Services.
Audit finds Illinois paid out $5.2 billion in fraudulent or excessive unemployment “overpayments” during COVID-19
An audit report released this week by the Illinois Auditor General revealed that the State of Illinois paid out more than $5.2 billion in fraudulent or excessive unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, including $46 million in payments to incarcerated or deceased persons.
The Illinois Auditor General on Wednesday published a report that showed how the state agency that distributes unemployment benefits issued “overpayments” to the tune of $5.2 billion in fraudulent or excessive claims from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2022. The report is the fullest accounting yet of the large-scale fraud and overpayments that occurred in Illinois during the pandemic.
Of the $5.2 billion, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) overpaid by about $2 billion for regular unemployment insurance and by $3.2 billion for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) put in place following the outbreak of COVID.
Overall, $2.8 billion has been classified as identity theft – money not considered recoverable since it can’t be collected from the identity theft victim. According to the audit, only about a 10th of the total $5.2 billion has been recovered.
Unemployment surged in Illinois, as it did in the rest of the country, at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued stay-at-home orders in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Businesses were forced to cut back their operations, if not shut down, leaving many Illinois residents out of work and creating an unprecedented level of demand for unemployment insurance.
“IDES was not prepared to respond to the needs created by the pandemic,” the report states. “IDES did not have a plan for responding to recessions and potential surges in claims.”
Illinois’ recent audit report revealed over $5 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims over two years, with the estimate potentially being higher. The Pritzker Administration’s mismanagement and lack of transparency have led to severe consequences for taxpayers and job creators. These funds should have been spent on the unemployed, not on fraudulent actors. Urgent reforms are needed to address the repeated failures at IDES.
Illinois Supreme Court Upholds Elimination of Cash Bail
The Illinois Supreme Court has announced its opinion on the Pretrial Fairness portion of the SAFE-T Act, and by a 5-2 decision, they have ruled it as constitutional. This strikes down a lower court ruling in December 2022 which found that the portions of the SAFE-T Act that abolished cash bail were unconstitutional. Thus, the elimination of cash bail is now set to go into effect on September 18, 2023 in Illinois. Illinois becomes the first state in the U.S. to totally eliminate cash bail, and it comes at a time when crime in the state remains at the top of the nation.
“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court confirms Illinois’ status as the state of lawlessness and disorder,” stated FOP State Lodge President Chris Southwood. “The court ignored the pleas of nearly every prosecutor in the state of Illinois, Democrat and Republican, that the elimination of cash bail will put dangerous criminals back on the street instead of keeping them in jail or forcing them to post cash bail as they await trial. Many of those offenders will commit crimes again within hours of their release.”
The elimination of cash bail was included as part of the controversial, sweeping criminal justice reform legislation known as the SAFE-T Act, which was passed by the 101st General Assembly on the last day of its Lame Duck Session and signed into law by Gov. Pritzker in February 2021. The Pretrial Fairness Act, which abolishes the current cash bail system, was slated to take effect on January 1, 2023.
However, lawsuits were filed by state’s attorneys in 65 counties alleging abolishing cash bail was unconstitutional. On December 28, 2022, Kankakee County Judge Thomas Cunnington found that the pretrial release portions of the SAFE-T Act violated the bail clause, the crime victims’ rights clause, and the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution. The Illinois Supreme Court issued a stay on December 31, 2022, delaying the effective date of the Pretrial Fairness Act until it heard arguments and ruled on its constitutionality.
The Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments on both sides of the case on March 14, with the lawsuits over cash bail pitting Gov. Pritzker and the state’s Democratic leaders against nearly half of Illinois’ state’s attorneys and county sheriffs. The Court took up the case on an expedited schedule.
The Supreme Court’s opinion said that the Illinois Constitution does not mandate that monetary bail is the only means to ensure criminal defendants appear for trials or the only means to protect the public. The law eliminates the cash bail system currently used in court which let those who could afford it pay their way out of jail while others who could not make bond would remain in jail. The SAFE-T Act lets judges decide who gets pretrial release and who should be held in custody.
Supporters of eliminating cash bail argue that it gives courts the ability to look at a number of factors for pretrial decisions without focusing on a person’s ability to pay. Opponents of eliminating cash bail believe the law handcuffs judges, who will now only be able to detain people charged with specific felony crimes. There are also arguments that this law will make the state less safe by releasing more violent criminals back into society.
Illinois House Republicans opposed the SAFE-T Act and the elimination of cash bail, as the legislation passed with only Democratic votes. Leader Tony McCombie established the Truth in Public Safety Working Group during the Spring 2023 Session. The group met multiple times over 10 weeks with stakeholders and presented a package of bills that included multiple changes to the SAFE-T Act and the Pretrial Fairness Act. The working group met with Democrats to discuss the proposals at the end of the spring session, but nothing has moved forward
The Illinois Supreme Court acted to uphold the “no cash bail” provision of the SAFE-T Act. This is a sad defeat for public safety in our state. Every citizen of Illinois deserves to live free of fear as they live, work, and raise a family. This decision will allow those accused of felonies to walk freely on our streets. We must find a balance between keeping our citizens safe, protecting everyone’s rights, and respecting law enforcement.