CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker continues defending the state’s unemployment system.
But the cries for help appear to be getting louder.
CBS 2 is Working for Chicago with reporting that uncovers the failures in the unemployment system. Vince Gerasole on Friday talked with more people struggling to file claims.
CBS 2 has received nearly 700 emails from desperate people who can’t get their Illinois unemployment benefits. As we stay-at-home and social distance, there’s been little opportunity for the unemployed to voice their frustrations together.
On Friday, a small group got a chance to be heard.
“We are all lost and no one sounds like they are in a hurry to fix the system,” said legal administrator Idde Colon.
CBS 2 wanted to give people like Colon a platform.
“Why does the burden fall on us? We didn’t do anything wrong. Why is it our job to sit and call for eight hours straight,” asked Thomas McCarty, who works in the food service industry.
“It says you can check the status of your claim on the website,” McCarty said. “No! You cannot check status of any kind on that website.”
“On one day, I called 19 times,” Colon lamented. “It’s been 83 times since 7:30 this morning. It hangs up on you exactly. Every option hangs up on you.”
Manuel Alvarez was a flight attendant for 44 years.
“There is now a recording for every single tab and option that tells you we cannot respond to you right now,” said a frustrated Alvarez.
“I am tired of doing it, but I can’t give up,” said restaurateur Justin Crabtree. “At some point, you can’t keep trying. You are exhausted of hearing the same letdown. It takes an emotional toll on you.”
He added “they sent me a letter that said I needed to interview at a day and a time they would be calling me. I waited that entire day and no one ever called me.”
McCarty was notified his case was being reviewed — and then nothing.
“My boss told me she talked to IDES, that I put the name of the company in incorrectly. Is that the reason it takes two months,” he asked.
Gov. Pritzker’s hesitation to admit significant challenges in the system until Thursday has taken a toll.
“And when you have a governor who was saying this past week there were no problems with the system my god,” he said. “He’s in denial that alone. Just festers such anger in you. It really shows how ill-prepared the state was for any kind of catastrophe really.”
“And if we have a problem today what’s going to happen next week when other people come in and the situation becomes worse,” said Bob Pardon, an IT professional.
About one million claims have been filed in Illinois. The governor insists 75% of “clean claims,” those without any questions, are being processed within two weeks.
But what about the rest?
Those people are desperate for a way to find out the status of their claims, and there’s no easy way to get an answer.
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.