CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. JB Pritzker has said there is no real backlog on jobless claims in Illinois.
But on Monday night, our sources said the backlog is real, and getting longer by the day.
As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Monday night, Pritzker has said time and time again that improvements are being made to the unemployment system. Folks inside the Illinois Department of Employment Security, including the employee who gave Kozlov a glimpse into the actual backlog, said they’re frustrated.
Dozens of people a week have continued to contact us about problems with Illinois state unemployment filings – a month and a half after Gov. Pritzker shut down the state. “They’re getting letters after the day that they’re supposed to have certified,” said Sharon Fitzpatrick.
But people trying to file have reported persistent online and phone nightmares with the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Fitzpatrick is among them.
“Today, literally, it took me until 5 o’clock to finally be able to get through and certify, and I started 7:30 this morning,” she said.
Gov. Pritzker is asked about the issues almost daily. He has said in the past that the problems people are encountering are “not something that’s intended.”
On Monday, Pritzker added, “There really isn’t a backlog at this point, so people are having trouble – there’s something, there’s typically an issue.”
But an employee inside the IDES contacted Kozlov right after the governor’s briefing Monday and said that is not true.
The employee sent a screenshot of unemployment claims that are yet to be adjudicated – 12,440 to be exact. All are out-of-work people waiting for interviews to find out if they can even get benefits.
The IDES employee said most were filed back in March and won’t even get interviewed until late this month – if then.
And that’s not counting people who still can’t file a claim or certify.
So the question remains, where is Acting IDES Director Thomas Chan in all of this? Kozlov asked Pritzker if he’d ever considered having Chan attend one of the daily coronavirus briefings.
“I haven’t, but I’ve been focused as you know, here, for the most part, on directly addressing the virus.
Kozlov requested an interview with Chan last week and was told it would be considered.
Pritzker said there will be an overview of the entire unemployment system later this week to give him, and hopefully the public, a better idea of what is really going on with the filings and the system.
UPDATE: 05/05/20 7:25 p.m.
IDES spokesperson Rebecca Cisco later reached out to CBS 2, citing this story as inaccurate.
She said: “The 12,000 number represents a number of current assignments in a system created to assist staffers in keeping track of the workflow action items that need to be conducted on any given day. This number is not indicative of claims, nor is it representative of a backlog. Assignments do not affect or interrupt claimants receiving benefits. Furthermore, there simply is no backlog of claims currently being processed, nor is there a backlog of claims to be paid.”
But our IDES source says it’s true those 12,440 people are receiving benefits but are waiting for interviews to make sure, as reported, they are actually eligible to get them. If an interview later determines they are not eligible, some or all of these people will have to pay the money back to the state.
CBS 2’s Kozlov also asked Cisco for a better word to use if ‘backlog’ wasn’t the correct way to characterize this group, or the hundreds of other people who’ve reached out to us stating they are still having problems with filing a claim, the website, talking to a human, or getting unemployment money.
Cisco has not yet responded.