CHICAGO (CBS) — The latest data show unemployment in Illinois has gotten worse, not better.
CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov found one man who is stuck with no job and no money – and who is getting no help from the state’s unemployment office.
Kevin McKay has had no income for eight months and counting.
McKay, 24, is also about to become a father, and is on the verge of getting kicked out of his apartment. He is included in a wave of people who have been struggling with the Illinois Department of Employment Security for months.
As shutdowns continue, Illinois’ unemployment claims are – perhaps not surprisingly – shooting way up. IDES officials report 65,596 new claims – up 40 percent from one week prior. And that is only adding to McKay’s stress.
“You can’t take care of your family. You can’t take care of your daughter that’s coming,” McKay said. “Like you get stressed out, you know? Like, you don’t know what to do.”
That is because he is still trying to get unemployment benefits from March, after losing his dishwashing job at the now-shuttered Furious Spoon restaurant in Pilsen. He said he applied for unemployment and got letters stating he qualified.
McKay certified, but no money ever came.
“Not one dollar since March,” he said.
McKay, who is expecting his daughter next month and is two months behind on rent, said after his initial letters, he got another one that was far more troubling. It said the he owes the State of Illinois $416 from a past overpayment.
Baffled, McKay tried calling IDES to find out why that money owed wasn’t simply being taken out of his benefits. He had no success in that mission.
McKay even turned to the IDES handbook, which indicates money owed can be taken from future benefits. Specifically, it states, “The amount recouped may not be more than 25 percent of your weekly benefit.”
Now, months after his efforts, McKay still has no answers.
“I reached out several times and I only got through a person once,” McKay said.
The hangover of spring unemployment problems could now be exacerbated by this latest new claim surge. Another claimant told Kozlov that when she tried to certify her benefits online, she got a message reading: “We are currently processing the claim applications that have been filed. Please try again at a later time.”
And that was after she had already been unable to certify by phone.
IDES officials have repeatedly said system improvements are helping solve benefit problems more quickly. But people left in limbo, like McKay, just aren’t buying it.
Kozlov: “What are you going to do?”
McKay: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I’m trying everything that I can do. I reached out to you guys. I constantly reach out to them. But nothing ever seems to change.”
McKay said his overpayment was determined to be a non-fraudulent one, which is why he has no penalty weeks to serve out. But he still doesn’t know why he isn’t getting any money.
On Monday afternoon, IDES spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco could not give specific answers either, as the department is not allowed to talk about specific cases. But Cisco could only say that there is a system set up for people who have issues, and that McKay should press the correct prompt for his particular situation.
So the cycle will apparently continue.
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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.