Unemployment Disconnect

A sharp increase in unemployment claims ties up the state’s phone lines

By Matt Bartosik
|  Friday, Jan 30, 2009  |  Updated 8:20 AM CDT
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Several unemployed people, when trying to call the state, were met with only a busy signal.

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Unemployment in Illinois is escalating to the point where it's overwhelming the state's Department of Employment Security.

The state's unemployment rate is the highest it's been in almost 16 years, and the department's automated telephone system can't handle the volume of callers.

On Monday, over 64,500 people were able to get through the state's Tele-Serve phone line, and on Tuesday, 57,014 more successfully called to certify their unemployment status.

However, the state only has about 650 phone lines available, so many callers only received a busy signal.

Spokesperson Greg Rivara told the Chicago Tribune that the state is planning to add another 216 lines by next month.

Perhaps the people who received a busy signal should try calling an Illinois Republican congressman instead.

Wednesday, Illinois' Republican representatives, along with every other GOP in the House, voted against President Obama's stimulus plan. Obama has argued that the plan will "save or create more than three million new jobs over the next few years."

And while the measure has received criticism from both sides of the aisle, Democrats have agreed that the legislation is desperately needed as unemployment rates skyrocket.

Despite the Republicans' unanimous opposition, the economic stimulus legislation passed (244-188) and is headed for the Senate.

Matt Bartosik, former blogger of The Chicago Traveler and the editor of Off the Rocks' next issue, appreciates your business and will take your call in the order it was received.

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