CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans have filed record-setting claims for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of them is a struggling single mom who told us Tuesday night that she is out of cash – but the state is putting her money on hold for months.
As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, Marissa Strickland said she has to wait almost five months to see any money at all – a wait that could leave her out of a home – all because of an issue she had two years ago and thought she had rectified.
It turns out the pandemic is not going to change that.
“You have your ups and downs, like I tell people,” Strickland said. “I’m a human being. I’m not perfect.”
Strickland, like so many others, lost her job in March – at the start of Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. She worked out of her home as a customer service representative for a grout company.
Strickland successfully filed for unemployment and got her day to certify – Tuesday, April 7.
“Got my letter, called in certified last week Tuesday, and basically no money,” Strickland said.
Not only was there no money, but when Strickland got a hold of an Illinois Department of Employment Security worker, she was told she would not get any money for 20 weeks.
It is a penalty for a benefit overpayment back in 2018.
“They actually took a portion of my tax return for this year, and it’s all paid back in full,” Strickland said.
Strickland has the letter to prove it. But the 20-week no-benefit and no-retro-pay penalty sticks.
Strickland said it also means she can’t get the unemployment portion of any stimulus help either.
“That sounds highly unusual, and I would like it if my office could hear from that person, because we should overcome that challenge,” Gov. JB Pritzker said when asked about Strickland’s issue on Tuesday. “That doesn’t sound right to me.”
We did contact the Governor’s office, who helped put us in touch with Rebecca Cisco, the spokeswoman for IDES – who had not returned any calls in weeks.
Cisco said the penalty weeks are addressed when someone’s account is dinged for unemployment fraud. The only way to appeal is in circuit court.
“How am I going to live?” Strickland said.
Strickland owned what she called a mistake during a tough time – and wishes during this pandemic, there could be flexibility.
“What if it were you? What if it was a situation where you paid them back, and honestly, you just can’t see why they just don’t have a bit of compassion,” she said, “a little bit of, like, OK, some form of compromise.”
She said she would be fine even if during this shutdown, the state could simply defer her penalty weeks somehow.
But IDES’ spokeswoman said the only way to change the penalty weeks would be to change the law, and there is no discussion among lawmakers, right now, to do that.
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.