HARRISBURG -- State Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie, D-Harrisburg, says she's backing legislation to increase penalties for individuals committing welfare fraud.
"Unemployment benefits exist to help those in between jobs, not a long-term entitlement to allow people to cheat the system for personal gain," Phelps Finnie said.
"The program is not meant to enable those who refuse to help themselves, so I want to send a clear message to those who want to profit off taxpayers' backs that the consequences will be serious."
Phelps has filed HB 5755, legislation that amends the Unemployment Insurance Act by increasing the penalty for fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits to 125 percent of the amount fraudulently obtained.
Currently, the penalty is 15 percent. In addition, penalties collected will be paid into the state's account in the Unemployment Trust Fund rather than treated in the same manner as benefits recovered from an individual.
The amendment would take effect immediately if it passed and signed by the governor.
Phelps filed HB 5755 on Feb. 16, when it also had its first reading and was referred to the House of Representatives' Rules Committee, according to the Illinois General Assembly website.
"I want to see more policies that help benefit taxpayers and protect their money from those that want to cheat and gain the system in Illinois," Phelps Finnie said. "Southern Illinoisans work hard and are sick of seeing the continual abuse of our welfare systems."
For more information, contact Phelps Finnie's constituent service office at (618) 253-4189 or email RepPhelpsFinnie@gmail.com.
Her district represents all or portions of Alexander, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, Saline and Union counties.