CHICAGO (CBS) — The money is still there, but unemployed Illinoisans still can’t access it -and bills are piling up.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina has been tracking the unemployment issue involving debit cards that don’t arrive, and she first brought it to the state on Wednesday night.

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People tell her that even with a number to reach the bank the state has partnered with, they still can’t get through.

Molina talked to a couple who has waited hours and hours for help without ever getting through. With bills due on Friday, May 1, it’s help they need.

So now, we are taking questions straight to the top.

Steven Love and Carreion Blacher said they waited on Key Bank’s line for two hours and eight minutes.

“I kept calling. They kept me on hold for hours and hours,” Love said.

And the couple said it has happened more than once. They took videos to prove it.

They called (866) 295-2955, the number CBS 2 got from state officials and Key Bank itself.

“We were watching you guys on television last night and were like, well, let’s try it,” Love said.

The phone line is meant to help people who have received unemployment benefits, but no debit card to access them with.

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“At this point, it’s like, what do you do? You can’t do anything. You have benefits sitting there you can’t even access the card. You can’t call nobody to tell nobody you can’t access,” Blacher said. “So what do you do?”

Love and Blacher said they have tried it all, with frustration now turning into fear.

“We have rent to pay, car note, the lights. And right now, we’re back on a couple a things and I need that to catch me back up,” Love said.

We’ve already turned to Key Bank, the Cleveland, Ohio-based bank the state has partnered with for the Illinois Department of Employment Security debit cards. So on Thursday, we asked Gov. JB Pritzker what he is doing to make that partnership better to help people.

“IDES has this relationship with Key Bank and is in fact working with them. They’re a partner, to the extent that you put pressure on partners to operate better, faster, more efficiently. That is what IDES is doing with Key Bank,” Pritzker said. “And I absolutely encourage people to connect with Key Bank when they are having trouble with those cards, and IDES is attempting to get them to work out all the glitches and make sure peoples calls are answered.”

Molina reached back out to Key Bank on Thursday and a representative said they have distributed 20 times the normal number of cards recently. This is the statement from Key Bank:

Over the past few weeks, the volume of cards we have distributed has been 20x the normal issuance and as a result, our Key2Benefits call center volumes are also up 10x the normal rate. We understand that these are
uncertain times and claimants need access to their funds and transparency around the process. We are working hard to address these concerns by:
• Adding Customer Service Representatives;
• Increasing telecom capacity to handle more concurrent call volume;
• Adding clearer messaging to our interactive voice response system;
• And improving, with updated FAQs prominently displayed on the website.


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.

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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.

Tara Molina