CHICAGO (CBS) — One year after the pandemic began, Illinois’ economy is still struggling to bounce back.

More than 3 million people lost their jobs – and thousands say the unemployment system is still failing them.

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CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov had the opportunity to bring many of your concerns right to Gov. JB Pritzker. After all, we have been reporting on those problems since the beginning of the pandemic.

And despite system fixes, massive problems persist.

Kozlov: “People call it a failure. They say it’s a failure.”

Pritzker: “Look, the pandemic continues, and people have lost jobs even over the last several months. So it’s not like something happened a year ago, and we’re still dealing with the thing that happened a year ago. It’s an ongoing challenge for the state.”

Pritzker acknowledged that unemployment claims, concerns, and callbacks continue to plague the Illinois Department of Employment Security. According to our latest public records request, more than 142,000 phone numbers were still sitting in the IDES’ callback queues.

Kozlov: “We’re a year in. Why is this still happening?”

Pritzker: “Well, let me begin by just saying that when you’re in the most difficult moment of your life – when you’ve lost your employment and you need help – you ought to be able to get to it.”

And that is exactly why alarms sounded when Acting IDES Director Kristin Richards stated, at a hearing, that some callback times were getting worse. She said current response times were “upwards of four weeks.”

Pritzker disputes that, calling it inaccurate. But he did say: “We’ve gotten better at this, but it’s not good enough. There’s no doubt about it. It’s not good enough, and that’s why we continue to apply people, technology, dollars to fixing the system; making it easier.”

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Another issue hammering the system is fraud. In January, the Illinois Attorney General joined a multi-agency task force to try and stop it.

Kozlov: “Nothing, no update on the task force that was formed several months ago?”

Pritzker: “It’s not my task force, as you know. The important thing about it is that we’re going after the fraudsters themselves. That’s the most important thing we can do is to go catch those folks or stop the fraud from occurring.”

There was no update as to whether the fraudsters were indeed caught.

A spokesperson for Gov. Pritzker said he wants to increase IDES funding in the next budget to help with these issues.

As to IDES saying callback times are getting worse while Pritzker saying that is not true, an IDES spokesperson said Monday afternoon that the number of calls in the queue does not necessarily mean all wait times are increasing. The ones going up are more complex calls that require more highly-trained employees, she said.

That spokesperson on Monday said overall, wait time trends are still going down.

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.

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