CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s hard enough navigating the state’s unemployment process, but losing your job in the pandemic can be especially tough if you’re one of the most vulnerable people during this time – senior citizens.

CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas heard from two seniors who were laid off and can’t seem to secure their benefits.

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Donald Domin of the western suburbs loved his part-time job at Panera.
“Bus boy, if you wish to call it that,” he said.

Domin worked there for 11 years, and not just for something to do.

“That money was important to us, because I still have a mortgage on this place,” Domin said.

Domin, 83, said Panera told him back in March they couldn’t keep him during the pandemic. And it’s not safe for someone his age to find another job right now, so he hopped online and is trying to get unemployment benefits.

He’s still trying, and he says he can’t even get a hold of a real person.

“That’s the frustration – not being able to talk to somebody, or even ask a question,” Domin said.

Doin’s daughter tried to log on with the state and showed us the error message.

“It says, ‘Can’t certify at this time, please call this number.’ If you call this number, it says, ‘You can’t certify, please call this number,’” Domin said. “It circles you back around. It’s just a vicious circle.”

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Anna Toledo, 78, wades through the same waters from the northwest suburbs. She was let go from her job giving out samples at Costco, and like Domin, she hasn’t gotten any funds.

Toledo said she got a letter from the state saying her retirement information doesn’t match their records, but she can’t get a hold of anyone for a fix.

“I have a lot of bills to pay. I have a car payment. I help out at the house here; my health insurance, my Medicare, all that,” she said.

Toledo tried to have her adult nieces sort it out, but she also hit a brick wall.

You can also receive Social Security and unemployment at the same time, although the amount for each may vary depending on your situation.

We asked the state about the roadblocks. They say they’re working hard to handle everyone’s claims and they will have someone reach out to both Domin and Toledo directly.

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.

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Tim McNicholas