CHICAGO (CBS) – With business closing due to COVID 19, Illinois unemployment claims are exploding. From Monday thru Wednesday of this week, there were 61,000 new unemployment claims, which is 10 times more than the same stretch last year.
However the Illinois system to process those claims is flailing.
“You don’t get a live person, either the lines are busy or you get a recording,” said Cynthia Williamson, who is newly unemployed as a chef with Aramark. She finally got confirmation that her claim for unemployment went through, but now the next step is making sure the state of Illinois has the money to pay her and the 60,00 like her who filed in the first half of this week.
If not, it falls to Washington to step in. According to Lawrence Msall, of the Civic Federation, the federal government requires states to borrow from a federal trust fund to pay the benefits.
The non-partisan Civic Federation, which serves as a fiscal watchdog, says this is unprecedented–a tougher climb than 9/11 or the great recession of 2008 because so many businesses have closed. Even more after today’s announcement ordering Illinoisans to stay at home until April 7.
As for Williamson, she knows the state is overwhelmed and has empathy. But while she’s unemployed, she does have two jobs.
One: getting that check and two: making sure it doesn’t bounce.
Since the situation is so unusual, the state has removed the requirement that you have to have proof that you were looking for work. The benefit generally pays about 50 percent of your prior income for up to 26 weeks. And there is no penalty to file.