Employees at the Illinois Department of Employment Security have been receiving threats as the state continues to battle record unemployment levels during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The people who work at IDES have been receiving literally threats," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday, adding that the threats have made opening some offices challenging.
Pritzker did not specify the nature of the threats.
Last month, the department reported unemployment rates were up and jobs were down in all 14 metropolitan areas in Illinois. Five of those areas also saw record-low payrolls.
Last week, Pritzker said the state began the process of obtaining an additional $300 weekly unemployment insurance benefit for residents who remain jobless during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
That benefit, authorized by an executive order from President Donald Trump earlier this month, was designed as a temporary replacement of a $600 boost to unemployment benefits that had been passed by Congress earlier this year during the pandemic. That boost expired in late July, and Congress failed to pass a comprehensive plan to restore the benefits.
Illinois has faced criticism over the state’s failure to implement those benefits after Trump’s order was signed, but Pritzker says that the state is indeed working to put those benefits into place, but that adding the infrastructure to facilitate those payments will take time.
“We have begun that process,” Pritzker said. “It takes a lot of setup on an internal basis for us to move forward with that, and so that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Other states are facing similar issues with implementation, with at least 30 states currently participating in the program, according to a CNN report. Since the benefits are not part of traditional unemployment benefit dispersal in the states, separate programming has to be created to distribute the funds, and that’s what Illinois, and other states, are currently working to do.
Several Illinois residents have reported issues with receiving unemployment in the state.
Pritzker has attributed the issues to an older system not equipped to handle the influx of applications the coronavirus pandemic brought on. He added Wednesday there has been "enormous effort by the new director to get in touch with everyone who has issues about their unemployment."
"There's a lot of work being done and I do think we need to work on the security of the people in these offices," Pritzker said.