CHICAGO (CBS) — In the first three weeks of March alone, there have been over 130,000 unemployment benefit claims in Illinois – with so many people out of work and needing money the state is having trouble keeping up.
The number of people filing unemployment claims surged more than 1000% last week, even before Gov. JB Pritzker ordered people to “stay at home” and mandated all non-essential businesses close through April 7.
And as CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, filing for unemployment has not always been an easy task – as multiple people have learned by experience.
“Right now I’m not earning a paycheck, so what happens to people like me in this situation?” said Jennifer Weech.
“After the fourth day, it got real frustrating,” said Jorge Carrasquillo. “I was thinking, how long is this going to last? You know, I got one check coming and then that’s it.”
“It’s still terrible that all of us have to go through this just to be able to like pay our bills and feed our kids,” said Christina Weissmann.
Carrasquillo, Weech, and Weissmann are all recently out of work, or have seen their hours cut drastically due to the hit COVID-19 has had on businesses.
“I’m barely hanging on by a string,” Carrasquillo said.
Last week, before the statewide stay-at-home order, more than 114,000 people filed for unemployment in Illinois.
“I’ve called over 200 times a day for the past nine days,” Weissmann said.
“Every single day, you get a busy signal,” Weech said. “You can’t get through.”
The flood of people trying to file for unemployment benefits has overwhelmed the Department of Employment Security
“The phone number is busy 24-7, so I can’t call. That’s not an option,” Carrasquillo said.
That has led to online error messages and delays in collecting money for those out of a job and in desperate need of cash.
“We’re going to get this right. We’re going to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to file for unemployment claims, and we have sped up the process for people to actually receive those claims as well
“Although the situation’s terrible, it’s nice to know it’s not only me and other people are having the same problem,” Weissmann said.
To ease the pressure on the website. The state has made some critical changes to the filing system.
For online filing, you are now being urged to log in on certain days by the beginning of your last name:
A-M: Call Sundays, Tuesday, or Thursdays.
N-Z, call Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays.
Saturdays will be open for anyone.
The call center will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
if you are calling, last names beginning with the letters A-M should call on Tuesdays and Thursdays; letters N-Z should call Mondays and Wednesdays.