CHICAGO (CBS) — For the second week in a row, the number of people who applied for unemployment went up.
In Illinois, 46,276 new claims were filed last week.
Since the beginning of March, nearly 1.3 million claims have been filed in Illinois.
As part of our commitment to Working for Chicago, CBS 2 has spent months exposing the massive backlog in processing unemployment claims and systematic failures.
People are reaching out to CBS 2 every day still trying to apply for benefits from jobs they lost as far back as March. Now, their frustration is boiling into anger.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole again pressed Governor Pritzker for answers.
With offices closed to the public, the unemployed are told to apply online or by phone, which has become a kind of purgatory for hundreds of thousands.
But in answering questions Thursday, the governor said the state has succeeded in getting unemployment to people. Here now the voices of those who disagree.
The offices remain closed to the public, but that doesn’t keep the frustrated unemployed from reaching out in person trying to just talk to a human.
“Nobody answers the phone. Nobody helps you,” Melissa Weaver of Burr Ridge. “The state is not helping its people.”
More than 23% of the state’s workforce has applied for unemployment. The state has struggled to qualify and pay hundreds of thousands.
Weaver, a furloughed bartender, has called the Illinois Department of Employment over 1,000 times.
“Six weeks. Every day. Like it’s my job,” Weaver said.
The story is much the same for Shereta Sanders. She’s a single mother raising a family and her landlord gave her a five day notice to pay rent.
“Oh, it’s heart crushing. For real,” Sanders said. “You don’t want to be hopeless but you got three kids with you. To have kids, three kids with you, it’s just very very hard.”
To tackle the backlog, the state did add over 200 new call center employees in early May, responding to an additional 50,000 claims and questions in the first month.
A CBS source inside ides asked us to protect their identity. They claim the additions are barely making a dent.
“The numbers have continued to increase and the workload has not gotten any lighter,” said the IDES worker. “We are starting our days at 6:00 in the morning and ending them at 6:00 in the afternoon. Just call after call, all day long.”
As of Thursday, Governor JB Pritzer attempted to defend the system, but admitted it’s been overwhelmed.
“I think people have seen we have succeeded in getting unemployment to people. We definitely have had our challenges,” Pritzker said.
So do the thousands on the unemployment line down to their last dollar.
“I need help and there’s no help,” Weaver said.
The acting director of IDES made a presentation to legislators on Monday, revealing a startling statistic: The department receives about 200,000 calls from unique claimants a week and they can respond to 15%.