Illinois Governor Advises Unemployment Applicants as Tech Issues Plague System

On Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker acknowledged the Illinois Department of Employment Security's system jammed amid a swell of applicants for unemployment benefits

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces that three more people have died in the state from from Covid-19 virus, two Illinois residents and one woman visiting from Florida, during a March 19, 2020, news conference in Chicago.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Unemployment claims in the state of Illinois continues to surge as more residents lose their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to data released Thursday from the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 178,000 Illinois residents applied for unemployment benefits last week, about a 50 percent increase in jobless claims from the week prior.

In 2019, there were just over 36,000 claims for unemployment benefits in the month of March.

“This is the biggest onslaught of unemployment claims I think ever, at least in my lifetime,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

And with this rise in applications, comes another issue as frustration continues to grow for those filing with the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Residents have hit brick walls due to overwhelmed phone lines and a website bogged down by the extra traffic.  

Last week, Prtizker recognized the issue and said additional steps would be taken to handle the volume of applicants.

Thursday he told reporters they’re doing the best they can with a system that was rebuilt in 2010.

“Well you might think, 'Well gee then shouldn't they be running properly?'” Pritzker proclaimed. “Well it's now 10 years later, not a lot of investment was made in the state's IT systems in that last 10 years.”

In an effort to help the log jammed phone lines, applicants are being asked to call on alternating days depending on the first letter of their last name.

Pritzker also recommended those filing to use the website to apply and to do so in off hours.

“We're trying to spread it out as best we can,” Pritzker explained. “But the truth is that the system does go down.”

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