By Samah Assad

CHICAGO (CBS)– The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) released final estimates Thursday afternoon saying unemployment claims for the week of March 23 totaled 178,421.

Earlier Thursday morning, the U.S. Department of Labor released advanced estimates that were not far off. Their estimate was 178,133 claims filed during the week of March 23.

The claims filed in Illinois are among a record 6.6 million claims filed last week in the U.S.

The Department of Labor’s report referenced layoffs in Illinois including in the accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance and manufacturing industries.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 114,663 unemployment claims in Illinois for the week of March 16, up more than 10 times for the week prior, when there were 10,870 jobless claims in the state.

Illinois unemployment claims began to rise dramatically after the governor ordered all bars and restaurants to shut down dine-in service starting March 16. From March 16 through March 18, Illinois received more than 64,000 claims for unemployment benefits. That number for March 17 and 18 was 41,000. In the same two days in 2019, the state reported 4,445 claims.

Two weeks ago, Illinois was among the states with the highest insured unemployment rates.

IDES told CBS 2, for the claims that were filed the week of March 17, the last time Illinois had that many new jobless claims in a single week was Jan. 9, 1982.

On March 20, CBS 2 reported that as claims continue to surge, Illinois processing systems are stressed. Some Illinois residents said it was difficult to get a live person on the phone or found the lines were busy. Others have been unable to file claims online, getting error messages, or finding the website has crashed at times.

Gov. JB Pritzker said part of the problem is the IDES online systems were last rebuilt in 2010, and are now being flooded with 10 times the normal amount of claims, and can’t handle the increased capcity.

“Believe me that we’re trying very hard,” he said. “I don’t know exactly that we’re going to fix it entirely so that everybody could do it all at once, but we have asked people please to spread out their calls and spread out their applications online.”

In an effort to relieve the stress on the system, the state has established a schedule for people to file their unemployment claims online and over the phone:

Online Filing Schedule:

  • Those with last names beginning with letters A-M will be asked to file their claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
  • Those with last names beginning with letters N-Z will be asked to file their claims on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays.
  • Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

Call Center Filing Schedule:

  • Those with last names beginning with letters A-M will be asked to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7:30am – 6pm.
  • Those with last names beginning with letters N-Z will be asked to call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7:30am – 6pm.
  • Fridays (7:30am – 6pm) will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether you receive benefits or your benefit amount. Additionally, claims will be back-dated to reflect the date in which a claimant was laid-off or let go from their job due to COVID-19.

Note: The days in which you can file a claim may be different from the days in which you are asked to certify.