CHICAGO (CBS) — A new audit of the Illinois Department of Employment Security reveals systemic failures long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The audit covered a two-year period ending in June 2019 and found 15 cases of IDES failing to comply with state laws and regulations, including having a lack of internal controls to protect people’s personal information from cyber attacks.
Republican state lawmakers are renewing their calls for a deeper probe of IDES with hundreds of thousands of people still struggling to get their unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 shutdown in March.
A lot of their complaints have been about the unemployment debit cards used to pay benefits. IDES has repeatedly blamed debit card problems on Key Bank, the company that issues them, but the state may actually be to blame.
There are thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits Daniel Biciste needs on a Key Bank debit card he has been waiting for since March.
“I never got it,” he said. “It says the money has been paid to this account, and it’s an account I can’t access.”
And when Daniel checks his cards status online, it says “Key Bank has not received your unemployment enrollment request from your state agency at this time.”
He is not the only one.
“They’re saying they don’t even have my name on file,” said Earl Wallace, who is dealing with the same thing.
He got the same notice.
“And then they direct me to call the state, that they would have no control over that,” he said.
Both of them say they can’t get through over the phone despite hundreds of tries. They can’t figure out what is taking so long.
“I think it’s unfair,” said Biciste.
So CBS 2 started digging by going through the state’s contract with Key Bank and found a timetable for the production of debit cards. According to the contract, after processing enrollment information from the state, Key Bank has one business day to create a production file, then a debit card.
So is the state or the bank causing the delay?
For Daniel, Earl, and anyone with this status, it’s the state, according to a spokesperson for Key Bank, who said it means they are waiting on enrollment information and instruction from IDES. The spokesperson went on to say they can’t see how many claims are waiting for process or why they haven’t been processed yet.
CBS 2 reached out to IDES early this week. A spokesperson for IDES got back to us Friday afternoon adn said they are looking into this and will get us some information early next week.
Key Bank released the following statement about the situation:
“The vast majority of enrollment files that we receive from the state are being processed by KeyBank quickly and cards are then produced in one business day.
If the state has not submitted claimants’ information to KeyBank, Key does not have visibility into why or how many claims are waiting to process. The attached screenshot means Key has not received a card enrollment instruction from the state. I recommend contacting the state to understand why this claimant has not been enrolled in the program or issued benefits.
If claimants have questions about their card, they should call the Key2Benefits line so that we can assist with their individual questions. We have reduced wait times to less than two minutes, so they should be able to get through.”
The state is also struggling to keep up with calls from people who have questions about their unemployment applications. IDES just launched a call back system meant to keep people from having to hold for hours or calling repeatedly to get through.
CBS 2 talk with several viewers who tried to take advantage of that system when it first launched Thursday morning. So far, none of them has gotten a call back.