Dear Editor,

More than five months into the coronavirus outbreak hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans have lost their jobs. Whether it was due to the economic slowdown or the Governor’s shutdown order, our neighbors in every part of the state have found their lives turned upside-down through no fault of their own. Now, adding insult to injury, the State of Illinois has failed them when they have sought assistance from the unemployment insurance system.

Since the first days of this crisis, my office has taken hundreds of calls and e-mails from local residents who have been struggling to get answers from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the state’s unemployment agency. They have shared with me their stories of growing desperation as bills pile up and bank accounts empty out.

Sadly, some of those individuals who applied for help back in March tell me that they are still waiting, still calling IDES for updates on their applications and getting no response. They are not alone. A recent investigation by WGN-TV in Chicago revealed that between March and July there were 78.5 million calls placed to IDES, but fewer than 400,000 had been answered. That is less than one percent.

This is unacceptable. Many legislators from both parties, including me, have reached out to IDES and Governor Pritzker to call for action, but this ongoing failure continues and requests seem to fall on deaf ears. All the while, our neighbors continue to plead for help while their calls go unanswered.

It is time for action. Other states have been able to address the surge in applications, but Illinois has remained stuck. We need answers from IDES immediately on the reasons for this failure and their plan to fix it. Time is running out.

Tom Bennett

State Representative

106th District

(815) 844-9179