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Illinois Residents Wait For Updates, Answers on Unemployment Benefits

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said it has processed more than 1.2 million claims in 11 weeks. Still, viewer complaints about the state’s unemployment benefits system continue to pour into NBC 5 tip lines.

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Illinois residents who have filed for unemployment benefits in recent weeks tell NBC 5 the process of receiving updates about their claims from the state is next to impossible.

Robert Jamison said he lost his sales job in March. He then filed for regular unemployment benefits as well as benefits through Illinois’ new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that was designed to help contract workers.

But after a glitch in the new PUA website, Jamison said he has been trying to verify his identity with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) in order to confirm that he will be receiving benefits.

“When you call in, it doesn’t go through,” Jamison said.  “It’ll tell you they’re too busy. Call back another time.”

Jamison said he was able to get through to a state worker last week and was told he would have to wait for his benefits.

"They told me they have it, but it still looks like it’s not verified," Jamison said.

Jamison said he experiences similar issues with the state’s unemployment benefits website.

“It’s very stressful because you want answers. You want to know if you qualify,” Jamison said. “Just give us what we deserve. If not, just let us know.”

Jamison is not alone.

Viewer complaints about the state’s unemployment benefits system continue to pour into NBC 5 tip lines.

A spokesperson for IDES said the department has been hard at work increasing capacity on its phone lines to help people connect to agents and receive the benefits for which they are eligible.

“On May 11, IDES set up a virtual call center that today has grown to 242 additional call center representatives equipped to take calls, more than doubling our capacity since the beginning of this pandemic,” the spokesperson said. “As the COVID-19 outbreak unfolded, IDES quickly moved to increase our web capacity to handle the unprecedented increase of claims, and improve our web capabilities, like implementing a web bot to improve the user experience.”

IDES said it has asked claimants to adhere to an alphabetized filing schedule for claims online and over the phone to help streamline the filing process.

“While we understand that claimants may be continuing to experience unique issues with their claims that require claims rep intervention, our upgrades have allowed us to process more than 1.2 million claims since March 1 and pay out more than $2 billion in benefits,” the spokesperson said. “We understand that there are many cases where a claimant needs to speak to a representative to resolve an issue or make a change, which is why we are working quickly to increase our phone capacity.”

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