CHICAGO (CBS) — We have learned that more than 58,000 Illinoisans applied for unemployment benefits last week, with tens of thousands or more having filed every week lately amid the coronavirus crisis.
On Wednesday night, you heard from the people processing the unemployment claims – Illinois Department of Employment Security workers who say the agency is so understaffed that claims were just getting pushed through.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina is working for Chicago, uncovering the information you need to get through the jobs crisis. She has taken the allegations made by IDES workers to Gov. JB Pritzker to see how he plans to address the concerns they brought up.
“They’re looking at quantity over quantity,” said an anonymous employee we’ve called Employee #1.
The Department of Employment Security employees gave us a firsthand account of what’s going on behind the scenes.
They risked coming forward and could only do so anonymously, saying their offices are making up for understaffing.
“All they wanted us to do was literally push them through,” the employee said.
And as to the record number of unemployment claims by pushing claims, the employee said, “not try and fix them, not try to get everything – just push them through that way and deal with them later. Push them through. How is that helping anyone?”
When we brought those allegations to IDES, a spokesperson told us there is no mechanism that allows employees to push through claims.
But employees we interviewed stand by it. And since our investigation aired, additional employees contacted us Thursday, saying they’ve seen it too.
So we brought their concerns to Gov. JB Pritzker.
“All states have had the same challenges,” Pritzker said. “They’re challenges of staffing. Of systems in place.”
He didn’t say it is mechanically impossible, instead citing federal regulations.
“They can’t push through applications with errors,” Pritzker said. “There literally are federal regulations that would prohibit that from happening.”
On Thursday night, employees still stand by those claims, federal regulations or not.
Pritzker followed up with the governor’s office, explaining that. As of late Thursday night, the office had not yet responded to that request.
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.