A CBS 2 Viewer Shares Tips For Dealing With The Department of Employment Security During The PandemicBy CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Months into the unemployment crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, many unemployed Illinois workers still complain they have to wait days to get a call back from the Department of Employment Security (IDES). One CBS 2 viewer who managed to get a call back from IDES shared his tips for people in similar situations.

63-year-old Chicago resident Eddie Lai was driving for Uber when the pandemic hit. As the virus spread, he and his wife decided it was too dangerous to continue working, so he decided to apply for the newly-available unemployment benefits for gig workers under the CARES Act.

Lai said it took him about two weeks to get his unemployment certification, but he needed to talk to someone at the IDES office. At that time, IDES had just rolled out its new automated callback to help deal with the influx of unemployment insurance applicants. Lai was one of the first to call.

Lai said IDES told him he’d get a call back in about 10 minutes, but he didn’t hear from them for three days. But once he did get someone on the phone, he said it’s critical to be understanding of the strain IDES employees are under.

“I spoke with the IDES teammate and tried to be very patient and kind because I knew it wasn’t her fault,” Lai said.

It’s also important to be prepared once you finally get a call, Lai said.

Step one, Lai said, is to have a list of the issues you’re experiencing, and be ready to explain them. Lai even recommends practicing explaining ahead of time so you’re sure you’ll be able to explain clearly.

Step two is to have the necessary documents ready and scanned so you can upload them to the IDES website. IDES requires applicants to upload a number of documents as part of the application process, and having them ready to submit online will help the process go smoothly, Lai said.

Step three, Lai said, is to ask the IDES employee on the phone to confirm with their supervisor that your issue has been corrected, and to ask for a correspondence number you can refer to if you have to contact IDES again.

Lai did eventually get his unemployment benefits. But now, he no longer needs them.

As the pandemic was unfolding, Lai decided to try to improve his value to a potential employer. He got a Certified Solidworks Associate certification — a professional certificate in mechanical design.

Lai even went as far as to create a new email address with “CSWA” in the name, which he said showed potential employers he had the certification before they even spoke to him. Now Lai is working at ESPO Engineering as a draftsman.

Lai said his Christian faith helped him remember the stress the IDES employees he worked with during his unemployment were under.

“At the end of the day, these IDES teammates are just people too like us,” Lai said. “Treat a person with kindness and you will get a lot of good things in return.”