(The Center Square) – A growing number of out-of-work Illinoisans are frustrated with the state's unemployment application process, which has buckled amid a record number of claims.
Illinoisans trying to file for unemployment benefits found the Illinois Department of Employment Security website temporarily down for part of Thursday.
One employee working valet at a live performance venue said the night a major comedian was set to take to the stage, she was told it was canceled because of restrictions on event sizes. She had to tell guests for 90 minutes the show was off and she’s been out of work since with no luck getting unemployment.
Another said she’s had problems with the state’s website and every time she’s called in the past week, it hangs up on her.
Kara Bono, who lives in Litchfield, said she has been trying to file for unemployment since her vehicle sales job let her take off to be with her children after the governor closed all of the state's schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That was two weeks ago. She’s said she can’t go to the local unemployment office because it’s closed. The Illinois Department of Employment Security's website hasn't been helpful, she said.
“It freezes up,” Bono said. “It won’t let you go any further, and I’m just kind of at my wit's end as to how am I going to get unemployment, especially if I don't get to work for the next month to support my kids.”
The Illinois Department of Employment Security website Thursday said online filing was temporarily unavailable.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday said the computers the state uses to process claims were ten years old and the systems weren't acting properly given the volume of applications. He has asked people to space out filings by only applying on specific days based on the first letter of your last name.
“I don’t know exactly that we’re going to fix it entirely so that everybody could do it all at once, but we have asked that people spread out their calls and spread out their applications online,” Pritzker said.
State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said people have been forced out of their livelihoods because of the government-imposed shutdown in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and they’re frustrated with the inability to file for unemployment. He suggested hiring a private-sector firm to manage the backlog.
“It’s way past time,” Wilhour said. “These things are doable. Get it done. Stop complaining about the federal response and take care of the things in your own state.”
Pritzker has been critical of President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic, as have governors in other states.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor, 178,133 workers filed for unemployment benefits for the week ending March 28, a 56 percent increase over last week’s record 114,114 filings.