CHICAGO (CBS) — For weeks, we’ve heard the money coming for unemployment benefits in Illinois and will be there.
But that is little consolation to the tens of thousands of jobless in Illinois who still can’t file. The antiquated computer system at the Illinois Department of Employment Security often crashes, or won’t load at all.READ MORE: Some Chicagoans Getting Two Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Doses
CBS 2 has learned the U.S. Department of Labor recently offered states help with their systems, but Illinois turned it down.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina pressed Gov. JB Pritzker for answers about that on Thursday. Pritzker addressed our coverage and our questions, siding with public-private partnerships that he says they’re more effective.
But whether the help is private or public doesn’t matter for people we’ve talked to who just want to successfully file for unemployment.
And for many, that’s still not happening.
Patrick Joy made countless calls on Thursday as he tried to check on the status of his claim.
“I’m just sitting on the couch going redial, redial,” he said.
Joy has been furloughed, and he applied for unemployment on April 1.
At this point, he doesn’t know the status – or whether his application even went through – because he says he can’t get anywhere online.
“I don’t know if it is filed,” he said. “I mean honestly, it’s just really bizarre that I can’t get a live person, and it’s frustrating.”
So he calls every day. And still hasn’t connected to a person – not even once.
At this point, he’s not sure how he’ll ever get through, or how he’ll ever get benefits.
“I have a wife, I have a stepson, I have bills, a mortgage – and I’m just frustrated I can’t get an answer,” Joy said.READ MORE: Navy Pier Flyover Completed After Years Of Construction Delays -- Many Ask Why It Took So Long
Joy saw our report Wednesday night on Illinois choosing not to accept help offered by the U.S. Department of Labor, for states with aging systems – like Illinois.
Instead, the state is relying on private partnerships for upgrades to its system.
“If the fed is offering help, take the help,” Joy said.
Pritzker addressed that report on Thursday.
“Even the federal government, sometimes especially government, doesn’t do things as well as the private sector,” he said. “What I can tell you is that we’ve got private-sector consultants, big ones, that have come in to help us put up the proper websites that we need in order to fulfill on what the federal government and Congress passed.”
The governor says the feds will reimburse Illinois for the money spent privately on those upgrades through the CARES Act.
But for people like Joy, it’s not about who’s paying for system, or who’s fixing it. Rather, it’s about getting through to get the benefits he and his family need right now.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security addressed this issue with Molina again Thursday night. Spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco released this statement:
”After weeks of offering no assistance, (the U.S. Department of Labor) is now offering to connect states with third-parties who are not familiar with our systems and are not necessarily based in Illinois. Prior to this offer, Illinois had already partnered with third-party vendors to address technical problems the department was having with the unprecedented number of claims coming through our online system. Specifically, IDES began working with Accenture, the vendor responsible for creating the current online claims system ten years ago and we have since partnered with IBM. These partnerships have allowed us to make tremendous strides in upgrading the website in the past few weeks to assist the department in handling the unprecedented number of claims.
”USDOL is also offering third-party assistance to states with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. What states requested from USDOL and what would have been very helpful is a uniform system to provide benefits that all states can use. Instead, the federal government left each state to build its own system from the ground up. Prior to the third-party assistance offer from USDOL, IDES had already partnered with Deloitte to get this program up and running as soon as possible.”
But people like Joy were still looking for those website upgrades, and help, as late as Thursday night.
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.MORE NEWS: FDA Approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine For Children Ages 12 To 15
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.