CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 200,000 people filed first-time unemployment claims in Illinois this week, breaking the record set last week.

All those claims in the system also complicate matters for people already approved.

As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, it gets even more confusing because a freelancer we spoke to said he was able to file a claim, he received a debit card in the mail from the state that he thought would be filled with money – but there was nothing in it.

Whether you need photos for your wedding day, a live concert, or you need some artwork for your craft IPA line, Kyle Bice does it all to make ends meet. But the gigs have dried up.

“I haven’t been working for about four weeks now,” Bice said.

And Bice has now joined the more than 493,000 other Illinoisans to file for unemployment in the past three weeks.

Last week alone, there were upwards of 201,000 unemployment claims.

“That little glimmer of hope. That card – you’re like, oh, you know, I’m going to have a couple bucks, at least, maybe something to help out – and it wasn’t there,” Bice said.

That ray of hope was sent to Bice from the state in the form of a debit card, which is how those who have filed for unemployment can access their benefits. Bice thought he was good to go.

“There was no way to put money on it. There was no way to verify who I was,” Bice said. “I got no mail, no email, nothing from the state, so now it’s just a random debit card that has no money on it now.”

The debit card is empty, and there were no instructions.

On the Illinois Department of Employment Security Facebook page, other freelancers are just as confused.

Kyla Rose wrote, “I got my key card, but nothing from IDES saying that I was approved for benefits or giving me a date to certify…. I’m so confused.”

“It was a big letdown – I got deflated,” Bice said. “My wife has been paying for everything in our home for past few weeks, and it hurts to not be able to contribute.”

A Facebook post Tuesday from the state unemployment office tells freelancers to not even try applying at this point. As for why Bice’s card came empty, we are still waiting for a response.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

Charlie De Mar