(The Center Square) – As the number of people seeking unemployment benefits continues to rise in Illinois during the COVID-19 pandemic, many say they are still experiencing problems filing claims.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he has heard numerous stories of people unable to file a claim.
“That is not something that is intended and we are certainly trying to work through any problems for people that have persistently been having difficulty,” Pritzker said.
Cooper, a bartender in Champaign, said trying to talk to someone on the phone from the Illinois Department of Employment Security was a nightmare.
“Gosh, I called probably 50 times and once you get through, finally, you get put on hold for about hour,” she said. “I just sat there and waited and then it is literally a two-minute conversation and you’re done. It's just crazy.”
The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported Thursday it had processed more than 74,000 claims last week and more than 1 million since March 1.
Kayleen Carlson, director of the organization Illinois Rising Action, said Pritzker dropped the ball.
“He is failing thousand and thousands of Illinoisans who are depending on him to get this situation remedied at IDES so they can put food on the table, so they can pay their rent and mortgages, and right now they can’t do that,” Carlson said.
Carlson said other states are shifting state workers to help out with unemployment claims. Pritzker has said that is not feasible because of the federally-mandated training involved.
The governor said Thursday an additional 100 agents will be added at IDES by Monday to help with initial claims, including those from gig workers.