By Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — Unemployment keeps soaring. Last week more than 138,000 people filed for benefits in Illinois. That is up almost 30% from the week before.

But there are still thousands who have been in the system and still are not getting paid.

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CBS 2’s Tara Molina is Working for Chicago, investigating the issues keeping people from the benefits they need.

Amber Taylor is one of more than 83,000 people who are in the state’s system but are not getting paid because of identity verification issues. She said she has provided IDES with everything they have asked for and for her the problem just got worse.

“I have to keep the phone glued to my hand all day long,” she said.

Every day she waits on a call from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

“Every time my phone rings I’m jumping to the call. I don’t want people calling my phone because I want the line to be clear for IDES to call,” she said.

Taylor said she applied for unemployment benefits over the summer, was approved and finally started receiving them last month. Then a note showed up on her account that read “pending identity verification.”

Eventually she was able to get ahold of someone to fix it.

“They said the only thing that’s wrong is the you’ve uploaded you temporary ID,” she said.

So when she got her permanent license in the mail she said she fixed that while on the phone with an IDES call taker who told her that’s all they needed.

That was not the case.

“They have completely frozen my benefits,” Taylor said.

On top of that, she said she got a letter demanding she pay back the benefits she did receive because of that identity issue.

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“It’s very hard financially,” she said.

According the last full set of data CBS 2 got through public records requests, there are more than 450,000 active claimants in the state’s system. More than 178,000 of those people are not being paid.

WE ASKED:

Of the 452,269 active claimants 178,374 are unpaid. We noticed that unpaid number increased in mid-November and 83,400 of the unpaid fall into the identity issues bucket…also an increase of about 4,300 from November 13th.
Why are those numbers going up? What do they represent?
We’re hearing from more and more people who are no longer receiving benefits because of identity issues.
All claim they can’t get in touch with IDES (haven’t received calls back) to address those issues/provide those documents. Can you address this issue?

THEY RESPONDED:

“IDES is unable to speculate as to the nature of claimant questions reaching news outlets. IDES has robust identity verification measures in place to combat fraudulent claims inundating state unemployment agencies nationwide. As overall claim volume continues to increase, more claims may require identity verification. We ask for claimants’ patience as we conduct callbacks on a first-in, first-out basis, and the challenges posted by this pandemic are requiring us to constantly look for ways to increase the department’s productivity and help more people. While wait times vary by the complexity of each issue, most claimants can expect a callback within one to two weeks.

As you know, the number of unpaid PUA claimants fluctuates daily, as long as individuals continue to file for assistance. Not all claimants who file a new claim are eligible to receive benefits. For example, if a claimant does not provide identity verification information as requested, there will not be payment on the claim. IDES has robust identity verification measures in place to combat fraudulent claims inundating state unemployment agencies nationwide. Claimants who are unable to verify their identity will not receive payment.

The increased number of unpaid claimants overall could be attributable to a number of reasons, including claims filed by fraudsters that will never be paid; claimants who have not certified for benefits and therefore will not receive benefit payment for the week(s) in which they have not certified, claimants who have not certified because they have returned to work, and more.”

A spokesperson for IDES told CBS 2’s Tara Molina any claimant who does not provide the identity verification information requested will not be paid.

But Taylor said she has done that.

“I’ve done everything that you’ve asked,” she said.

But she cannot fix this on her own.

“You can’t talk to anybody. All you can do is wait on them to call you back,” Taylor said.

 Thursday night Taylor was still waiting on a callback to address this with IDES.

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Tara Molina