CHICAGO (CBS) — With a glitching system and calls that are never answered getting in the way for those trying to file for unemployment in Illinois, one woman said she has been stuck waiting not for days, but for weeks.
In Illinois alone, unemployment claims for the week of March 23 totaled 178,421. But that number should be bigger, given the number of people who tried to file and could not.
Brick-and-mortar unemployment offices are closed because of the coronavirus, forcing people to file online or over the phone.
And people can do that, when those avenues work. But as CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, the hotline and website have been overwhelmed – leaving people waiting for days, or in Laura Sedor’s case, weeks.
Sedor has been a wedding photographer for more than 12 years. She said her clients starting postponing and canceling as soon as the COVID-19 outbreak started.
“Some of them are rescheduling in a year, like 2021,” Sedor said.
So with no work on the horizon, Sedor tried to apply for unemployment the first time weeks ago.
“It said it could not confirm my credentials, so I couldn’t sign up at that time,” Sedor said. “So I’m order to sign up, I have to call.”
And that is something she’s been trying every day, ever since – starting when the line opens for the day.
“Once you get past the busy signal and the automated system picks up, it’s seriously a two-minute explanation in the front, and once you get to the end, it says, ‘We are experiencing increased volume at this time, try again later,’ and it hangs up on you,” Sedor said.
Sedor isn’t alone. Juan Terriquez described exactly the same experience with the unemployment phone hotline to CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov earlier Thursday.
So many are complaining about issues with the state’s system that Gov. JB Pritzker addressed them Thursday, acknowledging there aren’t enough people to handle the unprecedented number of claims.
He said his office is working with the Department of Innovation and Technology and Department of Employment Security staff on the aging system that continues to crash.
So CBS 2 asked the Department of Innovation and Technology exactly what they’re doing. A spokesperson told us they’ve made upgrades to their servers to handle the increase, and just added a monitoring tool to quickly identify issues.
But that’s not enough for people like Sedor – who weeks later still can’t file.
“I can’t imagine what it’s got to be like for so many other people,” she said.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security is encouraging people to keep trying Thursday night.
But with no real fix in place yet, we will stay on this and continue to bring you the latest.