By Christopher Hacker
CHICAGO (CBS) — As non-essential businesses remain closed under Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay at home order, the U.S. Department of Labor’s employment statistics show never-before-seen levels of unemployment across the state.
Each week since businesses were forced to close has broken the previous week’s record, with numbers reported Thursday — more than 140,000 new unemployment claims — 18 times higher than they were at the same time last year. During the great recession of 2008/09, the worst week for claims was around 31,000.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
In Illinois, as tens of thousands are scrambling to claim unemployment benefits, many reported being unable to file. Others said they have filed, but haven’t received a dime.
Alicia Strojewska was furloughed from a dermatology office. She said she’s been trying to file for unemployment for weeks.
“I’m very stressed,” she said. “That stress actually forced me to do something, and that is why I called the office of our governor to let them know what is going on.”
Strojewska said she was able to connect with the Illinois Department of Unemployment Security after repeatedly calling Pritzker’s office, but still wasn’t able to complete her claim.
A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology sent CBS 2 a statement explaining the number of claims has overwhelmed the state’s unemployment office:
“When volumes first spiked on the IDES website and benefits application, upgrades were made to the state’s servers and infrastructure to increase capacity to handle these increases. In the past week, a 24/7 monitoring tool was also added to quickly identify and resolve issues to the IDES site. Traffic to the IDES website and benefits application has experienced unprecedented increases since mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes have been made to allow for increased capacity. To put into perspective how high the traffic has been, staffers who work tirelessly to process these claims processed over 178,000 last week alone. This same week last year, those same staffers processed just over 9,000. The last two weeks has seen more than 292,000 unemployment benefit claims, an increase of 1,604 percent from the corresponding weeks last year.”