CHICAGO (CBS) — Around 2.5 million people got jobs in May, dropping the unemployment rate to 13.3%. More than half of those jobs added were at food and drinking establishments, but the overall unemployment numbers are still staggering.
In Illinois, 22% of the state’s 6 million-plus workers have filed for unemployment benefits, and CBS 2 is finding people have been struggling for months to get paid.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole is Working for Chicago, pressing for answers.
Jamie Gonzales, a restaurant manager at Midway International Airport, has yet to receive a penny in unemployment assistance.
“I lost my job March 17,” Gonzales said. “It’s getting frustrating, and it’s putting a lot of pressure on me and my family.”
The single dad raising two kids applied online and was ruled ineligible and told to contact an IDES representative.
“Literally called over 100 times a day trying to get through,” he said.
IDES said it has over 500 workers taking calls and processing claims. Gonzales said he tried again on Friday.
“Just today, taking my chances. It’s like winning the lotto basically,” he said. “Right now with kids it’s difficult. Maybe 25 times then I gave up because it’s hot, and I’m frustrated.”
The IDES reports more than 1.3 million Illinois residents have filed for unemployment since March 1, but in the past two weeks only 53%, roughly 800,000 people, were receiving payments.
“I get up at 8:30, and by 10:30 I’ve dialed 200 times,” said Jimmie Barreto.
Barreto is a laid off delivery driver, told to contact IDES because of an application complication.
“The machine goes on to tell you, ‘We are extremely busy right now due to COVID-19,’ then it hangs up on you,” he said.
They are just two voices who recognize the impact of unprecedented times but think the state has had enough time to improve.
“People are suffering out here, especially with the looting, and stores aren’t open,” said Gonzalez. “And more people are losing their jobs now.”