When you file for unemployment, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) reviews your claim and your work history and determines if you are eligible to receive benefits, and the amount of benefits to which you're entitled. Each week in which you file a claim you can expect to receive a benefit payment. However, if the department determines at any time that you were paid in error, you must repay any overpayment of benefits. You have several options for repayment.
IDES regularly reviews unemployment claims for accuracy. It also relies on tips from others to uncover fraud in unemployment claims. If IDES determines you were overpaid for one week or several weeks, it will send you a Notice of Reconsidered Determination and Recoupment Decision. This notice lists the amount you must repay and the reason IDES has decided you owe this money. You have the right to appeal the decision, but you must be able to make a strong case that outweighs the evidence IDES has already collected.
Illinois law requires you to pay the entire amount owed. If you can't afford to pay all the money at once, IDES will work out a monthly payment plan for you. If you don't contact the department to arrange a payment plan, it can withhold part of your future unemployment benefits, up to 100 percent, until the money you owe has been fully repaid. It can also withhold any state tax refunds to which you may be entitled. The debt remains outstanding until it is paid in full.
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Reasons for Overpayment
When Michigan State University economics professor Stephen Woodbury looked at the issue of unemployment benefit overpayments in a number of states, he found that the most common reasons for the overpayments were workers failing to report earnings from part-time or temporary work that they earned while collecting unemployment benefits; workers failing to meet the requirements to look for work and be available for work; and workers who quit or were fired from jobs rather than being laid off. If you earn any money from work while you're unemployed, you are required to report this money on your claim form. These wages may reduce the amount of your benefit for that week. And if you are unavailable for work during any part of your claim period — for instance, you go on vacation, or you're ill and unable to work — you are supposed to note that on your claim form, and your benefit for that week will be reduced accordingly. If you lie about the reason for your job loss and IDES uncovers evidence to the contrary, you are not entitled to benefits.
In addition to potentially losing part of your unemployment benefits until any overpayment is fully repaid, you could face civil charges if IDES determines you deliberately set out to defraud it. In addition, if the department determines you defrauded it by "knowingly making a false statement or failing to disclose a material fact" it can withhold your entire benefit until all monies are repaid.