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As more Illinoisans seek unemployment benefits, lawmakers question delayed processing, payments

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Friday, May 22, 2020  |  Article  |  The Center Square

Economy (34) , Unemployment (93) Crespo, Fred--State House, 44

(The Center Square) – More than 1.2 million Illinoisans have filed for unemployment since the beginning of March and a state representative is demanding answers on what the Pritzker administration is doing about continued delays in paying out benefits.

Illinois’ unemployment rate for April skyrocketed from 4.2 percent to 16.4 percent. That doesn’t include the more than 140,000 filers in the previous two weeks.

State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, said he still doesn't have concrete answers about what the Illinois Department of Employment Security is doing to correct major issues with not just fielding and processing claims, but paying them out.

“The calls need to get answered, the applications need to be taken and they need to process the claims and at the rate they’re doing this right now – at two percent of the calls coming in – they’ll never get their money,” Crespo said.

Crespo said he has been trying to get answers from the Illinois Department of Employment Security and is considering calling a subject matter hearing on the matter, but said hearing or not, the governor needs to bring the legislature in on this issue to get it sorted out.

IDES said in a statement the 1.2 million claims it has processed “is 12 times the number of claims the department processed over the same period last year, when IDES processed just 93,000 claims for regular unemployment benefits.”

But there are other issues with the increased unemployment claims, and that’s the expected increased costs for employers who pay unemployment insurance.

“We’ve had conversations within the [Democratic] caucus and with IDES to figure out how do we handle this,” Crespo said. “It’s something we need to figure out. It’s going to be a huge liability for a lot of these businesses.”