Immediate fix needed to help Illinois' unemployed

Legislators have been fielding hundreds of calls and emails from desperate and distraught Illinoisans who are frustrated with the inability to connect with the Department of Employment Security (IDES). Finding themselves unemployed overnight because of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Illinois residents thought they would be able to attain unemployment benefits but found IDES phone lines busy and a website that can't handle the traffic. There was no way to communicate with IDES so they turned to their lawmakers in an attempt to find someone to help as they struggle to pay for food, housing and medicine.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and House Republican caucus members call upon on Governor JB Pritzker and state officials to rectify the failed unemployment system in Illinois and provide immediate assistance and relief to families across the state.

“At a time when Illinoisans in distress need state government the most, we have simply failed,” Durkin said. “These are families who were living paycheck to paycheck and now have no way to put food on the table for the children. We must do better by fixing this issue immediately.”

In March, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued two executive orders that 1) restricted dine-in service at restaurants, bars and food establishments, and 2) closed non-essential businesses across the state until April 30, 2020 (tentatively). These pre-determined actions resulted in mass layoffs and furloughs in every part of the state, with nearly 500,000 residents filing for unemployment and countless others who cannot get through to IDES and are not receiving deserving benefits.

“The current situation at IDES is simply unacceptable and the Governor’s response has been inadequate,” Rep. Wehrli said. “While we all understand we are facing a health emergency, we are also in an economic emergency that is being worsened by the state’s lack of action.”

The federal government’s CARES Act allows for any self-employed workers, gig workers and independent contractors to apply for unemployment insurance for the first time. While states across the country have started rolling out this new plan, Illinois still has no date available when workers can file applications.

“The federal government has stepped up to help those who have been cut off from vital paychecks after losing their jobs,” Rep. Marron said. “The failure of IDES means residents who can’t apply are not able to receive state OR federal benefits. The Governor needs to get IDES working efficiently, especially for our self-employed workers who have no idea when they will be able to apply for benefits.”