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State officials have said the rise in unemployment fraud is likely due to large corporate data breaches, such as one in 2017 involving Equifax that exposed the personal data of millions of people.”

State and federal officials are encouraging Illinoisans to stay vigilant as reports of unemployment insurance fraud swell.

From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, fraudulent claims have been an issue as a record number of Illinois residents file for benefits and Congress provides additional jobless aid. Illinois has stopped more than 350,000 fraudulent claims since March 1, according to the state’s Department of Employment Security.

Reports of fraud have been so widespread — often inundating local police departments — that the FBI, IRS and several state agencies launched a task force to tackle the problem.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office has received more than 1,400 complaints since June from people who allege someone else filed an unemployment insurance claim in their name, spokeswoman Tori Joseph said.

Here’s what to be on the lookout for and what steps to take.

  • How do I know if I’m a victim of fraud?
  • Why did I receive a debit card?
  • What steps should I take to protect myself?
  • How do I avoid becoming a victim of fraud?
  • Am I responsible for funds paid to fraudsters?
  • What if I need to file for benefits?

Read the answers to these question in the Chicago Tribune here.

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The plywood over the windows, which cost taxpayers $30,000, was starting to come down Thursday. That’s after nearly a week of a heightened security presence based on a threat that never materialized.

Last week, images of construction crews putting plywood over the windows of the Illinois State Capitol were mixed with images of armed Illinois National Guard soldiers blocking streets and creating a perimeter around the complex.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday ordered 250 soldiers from the Illinois National Guard to support security at the capitol and other state government buildings in Springfield. The move was in response to a threat the FBI said involved possible armed protests at the state capitals of every state leading up to the inauguration of President Joe Biden Wednesday.

Such protests never materialized in Illinois.

Read on here.

Related:Now-closed McCormick Place COVID-19 hospital cost taxpayers $15M to staff, run

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For Immediate Release

SPRINGFIELD… State Representative Martin McLaughlin (R-Barrington Hills) enters his first term today as State Representative for the 52nd House District commencing the 102nd Illinois General Assembly. Rep. McLaughlin released the following statement:

“I am extremely honored and humbled to be sworn in today as your State Representative. Thank you for the opportunity to serve our great community in Springfield.

Today marks a new era with long time Speaker, Mike Madigan, out of the picture. I decided to run for this position because Illinois is broken and a complete fiscal disaster. I have dedicated my career to solving pension and fiscal problems, and I hope to represent all of you in the 52nd District with honesty, integrity, and transparency.

We have so much work to do in the 102nd General Assembly and I truly hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are actually ready for positive change in Springfield. Americans have suffered immensely this past year, business owners need relief, and Illinoisans need government responsibility now more than ever. I am ready to get to work! Thank you for the opportunity to be the fiscal watchdog we need.”

Jack Ivansek
House Republican Staff

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Here is what you need to know about the coronavirus in Illinois, what you can do to stop it from spreading, and what steps state and local governments have or have not taken in response.

Entire state hits Tier 3 lockdown, masks mandated until June 3

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Jan. 3 continued his mask mandate and social distancing requirements for another 150 days. Masks must be worn indoors as well as outdoors if a six-foot distance cannot be maintained. The orders are possible because he issued 11 disaster declarations as a result of COVID-19.

Illinoisans were all being urged to work from home and limit unnecessary travel starting Nov. 20. Tier 3 mitigations were imposed statewide, including a statewide ban on indoor dining and bars, ban on indoor group recreation and other restrictions on retail, fitness centers, offices and other indoor facilities.

Read an enlightening article from Illinois Policy here.

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Only three new laws will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, because the Legislature’s sessions were nearly wiped out by the pandemic.

When a new year begins in Illinois, there typically are dozens if not hundreds of new laws going into effect.

Not this year. Like so many other things in 2020, the legislative spring session was stunted by COVID-19. Once the global pandemic reached Illinois in March, the General Assembly would meet for only four more days — wrapping up the odd session during masked and socially distanced gatherings at the Capitol and Bank of Springfield Center. The fall veto session was scrapped altogether.

As a result, only three new laws will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021. Here’s a look at them as well as the next increase in the minimum wage that will be applied Friday:

  • Insulin costs cap
  • Use of DNA in missing person cases, and
  • Keeping victims’ addresses confidential

Read the explanation of each in the Chicago Sun*Times here.

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The Observer takes a look back at another year gone by, as we present the most frequently read news stories and editorials in 2020. Click on any title to read and revisit stories from this past year.

Racism allegations follow as plan to move 25 kids into Barrington Hills home stalls

Although the leader of an organization helping disadvantaged minority youths contends race is a factor in his delayed plan to move into a Barrington Hills home with 25 children of color, village officials say the zoning code is the only issue.

This June 30 article received 11 comments, and 12 Facebook shares.

Time to stop giving 220’s Harris passes

A week ago today hundreds of parents and students in Barrington Area Unit District 220 gathered at a rally in Citizens Park to ask the district to allow in-person schooling to resume. Some spoke while others displayed signs such as, “Open our schools for in-person learning,” or “Face 2 Face learning is essential” (seeI am asking for a choice’: Barrington 220 parents, students rally for in-person learning” and “Hundreds turn out for Barrington rally calling for end to remote learning, restart of student sports”).

No one commented on this September 21 editorial, but a record 86 people shared it on Facebook.

220 won’t consider COVID-19 testing at this time (as opposed to New Trier, thus our response

Wednesday District 220 emailed the following notice to the community:

Over the past couple of weeks, the district has been looking at the possibility of using COVID-19 testing as one additional component of several virus mitigation efforts. At the Dec. 1 Board meeting, the Board decided it would not consider using COVID-19 testing at this time due to high costs and the fact that it would not be a full proof [sic] measure in preventing the spread of the virus.  Click here to watch the Board’s full discussion about COVID-19 testing.

New Trier Township High School District 203 did not hesitate at all when in October they announced, “…they will pay up to $1.3 million to conduct COVID-19 saliva screenings for students and staff.” As a result of their proactive measures, some students are back in classroom today, December 4.

There were 2 comments on this December 2 editorial, and 3 shares on Facebook.

Homicide investigation on Old Sutton Rd just south of Otis Rd, Barrington Hills

Barrington Hills police and firefighter/paramedics from Barrington -Countryside FPD responded about 3:34 a.m. Saturday March 7, 2020 to a report that multiple people were shot at or near a home in the block of 300 Old Sutton Road. Police and firefighter/paramedics received a report that there were multiple gunshot victims. At least two victim were transported to a local hospital. At least one victim was possibly dead at the scene.

We got one comment to this March 7 story, but 35 shares on Facebook.

Fact checking

On Monday night, CBS Chicago reported a story that included audio and text stating the following:

“Over 20 acres of tree-lined property nestled in affluent Barrington Hills feature tennis courts and a sprawling home purchased by Terrance Wallace, the InZone Project founder.” (InZone Project Founder Says He’s Been Hit With Red Tape In Efforts To Bring Black And Brown Boys From Chicago To Live In Barrington Hills Mansion.)

There is no recorded public record of a recent sale of the property on 541 Merri Oaks Road. Public records do indicate that the property is currently owned by a Trust and has been under the ownership of the Trust or related parties since 2002.

There were no comments or shares on this July 1 article..

NEW! Solitude Ranch w/Indoor Pool, Event Friendly! $599 per night

Sneak away from the big city for a peaceful stay at ‘Solitude Ranch,’ a vacation rental in Barrington! This ranch is one-of-a-kind, offering 3,567 square feet of space complete with 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, an upscale kitchen, sunken den, wall-to-wall windows, and even an indoor pool!

There were 3 comments made about this March 7 ad, but no shares

Barrington District 220 reverses course, switches to online classes only

Reversing course on its plan to let parents choose between in-person and online classes, Barrington Area Unit School District 220 announced Wednesday that it would offer only remote learning when school opens next month.

There was one Facebook share, and 9 comments to this July 29 article (most of which objected to our choice of graphic used).

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New Trier High School District 203 convened a special Board of Education meeting Tuesday night to discuss expanding the in-person instruction currently provided to students.

Wednesday District 220 emailed the following notice to the community:

“Over the past couple of weeks, the district has been looking at the possibility of using COVID-19 testing as one additional component of several virus mitigation efforts. At the Dec. 1 Board meeting, the Board decided it would not consider using COVID-19 testing at this time due to high costs and the fact that it would not be a full proof [sic] measure in preventing the spread of the virus.  Click here to watch the Board’s full discussion about COVID-19 testing.

New Trier Township High School District 203 did not hesitate at all when in October they announced, “…they will pay up to $1.3 million to conduct COVID-19 saliva screenings for students and staff.” As a result of their proactive measures, some students are back in classroom today, December 4.

Further, Tuesday night when the 220 Board of Education was meeting via Zoom, New Trier had a special meeting at their “grown-ups tables (seen above),” including 24 people in attendance for public comment, for the purpose of considering expanding their in-person instruction plans (seeCiting confidence in saliva-based COVID-19 screening protocol, New Trier to consider expansion of in-person instruction”).

Clearly there is a difference in philosophy and perhaps abilities when considering the superintendents of the two Districts.

Dr. Paul Sally, Superintendent Northfield Campus of District 203, holds a B.S. from Yale University, an M.S. from Northwestern University, and an Ed.D. from National Louis University. His qualifications and responsibilities can be found here.

Dr. Brian Harris, Superintendent of Schools, Barrington 220 Community Unit School District, holds, “his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana and his master’s and doctoral degrees in educational leadership from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL.” Harris has more of a resume than a list of qualifications, and it can be viewed here.

We have had concerns about Harris, especially when things hit the corona fan at the beginning of this year. He seems to take too much guidance from Springfield and way too little if any from the Board, parents, students and taxpayers.

Now that the Board of Education is interviewing candidates to fill Harris’ shoes, we have some simple advice: aim higher when considering a replacement for Harris. Much higher.

Related: New Trier expected to expand in-person instruction in January 2021

A recording of the New Trier Board of Education meeting Tuesday night can be viewed here.

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Effective Tuesday, all driver’s license offices in the state will be closed through December 6th.

Illinois’ drivers services facilities will close for in-person business for three weeks starting Tuesday because of the statewide surge in COVID-19 cases.

Secretary of State Jesse White’s office announced the statewide closures of the state’s Driver Services facilities on Friday and urged the public to take advantage of online services.

The closures for in-person business will begin Tuesday, with the locations set to reopen December 7th in an effort to help protect staff amid the ongoing increase in coronavirus cases.

For more info visit CyberDriveIllinois.

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Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

When Illinois voters rejected Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s request for permission to alter income taxes, they twice defied the wealthy governor, embattled House Speaker Michael Madigan and the dominant Democratic majority in Springfield.

They voted No on a constitutional amendment to switch from a flat tax to a graduated tax. In doing so, they said No to the defining characteristic of this state’s Democratic problem-solving, which tends to be: throw more money at it. Streamline government? Consolidate taxing bodies? Allow voters to enact term limits? No, just raise taxes or create new ones.

From such moments of voter frustration, political rebellions can be born. There is no question in our minds that Madigan has overstayed his tenure as speaker and represents an obstacle, rather than the agent of change, for Illinois, which must fix its broken finances. Adding pressure: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin on Wednesday and Pritzker on Thursday joined us in saying, time for Madigan to step down as party chairman.

Election Day provided several more signs that Illinoisans are willing to challenge the ossified, self-centered and damaging fiscal policies of Madigan and the Dems. Madigan, who is linked to an unfolding federal corruption investigation, saw Republicans appear to take two House seats from his supermajority. Not a big change, but every loss means something, even given the Democrats’ overwhelming position.

Read the full Chicago Tribune editorial here.

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In the three-way House District 52 race, Republican Barrington Hills Village President Martin McLaughlin leads by a wide margin over Democrat Marci Suelzer of Island Lake and Green Party candidate Alia Sarfraz of South Barrington.

With all precincts in Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties reporting, unofficial totals show McLaughlin received 28,778 votes to Suelzer’s 22,166 votes and Sarfraz’s 1,317 votes.

Read the Daily Herald report here.

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