CHICAGO (CBS) — Gary Berg has been waiting on unemployment benefits since November – and he has also been waiting six weeks on a callback from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

They are both issues we have investigated for months now with the state’s unemployment system. So CBS 2’s Tara Molina talked to Berg while he has been left feeling like he slipped through the cracks and is barely hanging on.

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Berg is worried that an online class is what is between him and his unemployment benefits.

Berg said the only follow-up questions he has been asked about his unemployment claim have to do with the online class he was taking – so Molina asked IDES what’s going on here, and why such delays continue nearly a year into the pandemic.

“I’m a software engineer. I love to learn,” Berg said. “So I said, ‘Yes, I’m taking a class.’”

That is what the software engineer of more than 20 years says he told IDES in November. Berg has played a waiting game ever since.

“This decision that was supposed to be made had to do with me being in class,” Berg said.

That one online certification class that Berg has now completed, is what he believes is still holding up his unemployment claim.

“I’m really just surviving right now,” Berg said.

And he is just trying to hold on.

“Going through Christmas, going through this cold weather, I don’t have a source of income,” Berg said.

He also has no answers yet.

“You really don’t know, how am I going to pay the bills?” Berg said.

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Berg is living his life with his phone in his hand waiting for a call from IDES, and he said he has been waiting for more than six weeks.

“I kind of just feel like I’m stuck,” he said.

Through public records requests, we know he’s not the only one. As of the first of February, 145,628 calls for unemployment help needed to be returned.

Molina asked IDES about that. A spokeswoman told her the wait for benefits, or a callback, can depend on the type of issue someone has – and while they cannot speak to specific cases like Berg’s, that spokesperson explained school should not affect unemployment:

“In general, attending school does not affect a claim, so long as a claimant remains otherwise eligible to receive benefits, including the requirement they are able, available, and actively seeking work,” IDES spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco said in a statement.

The only way attending school would affect a claim is if someone were just a full-time student.

“I’m ready to work,” Berg said.

He has waited so long, he said he is finishing his class. He just needs the benefits that are supposed to be there in situations like these, until he can work again.

“I’m trying so hard to get a job,” Berg said. “I don’t want to be on unemployment. This is not where I’m at. But I need it to get by.”

As of late Thursday night, Berg was still waiting on that callback.

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.

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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.

Tara Molina