Some Illinois unemployment offices reopen by appointment only
Almost a year and a half after IDES shut down employment centers statewide, the unemployment agency began reopening offices for in-person assistance. So far, 13 offices have reopened, including only one in Chicago.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security closed its offices for 531 days as record numbers of Illinois looked for work during the economic downturn from COVID-19, but in late August four offices finally reopened – by appointment only.
Today, nine more IDES sites have opened as part of a phased reopening, but the opening of additional offices has yet to be announced and only one is in Chicago.
The 13 reopened unemployment offices will offer job search assistance and unemployment claim assistance to residents by appointment only.
Offices closed at the start of the pandemic on March 13, 2020, as unemployment hit a record 16.3%. In May, Governor JB Pritzker said they had remained closed because: “There have been literally physical threats that have been inflicted on the people who work at IDES. Neither Pritzker nor IDES would provide details of the threats.
In May, Illinois House unanimously called for the immediate reopening of IDES offices, saying the automated systems were inadequate. There were 155,765 Illinoisans awaiting a recall from the automated system in March. It remains blocked, with 40,095 calls waiting to be answered on September 2.
IDES claims escalated in mid-May 2020 when the state brought its $ 22 million system online to manage self-employed and concert workers who would not normally be eligible for unemployment benefits . There were 159,000 new self-employment applications that first week of May 9, 2020, and that number rose to over 370,000 the following week.
These new claims encountered a loophole in the system created by a non-competitive contract: the names, social security numbers and other personal information of nearly 32,500 claimants were exposed. Identity theft followed, according to a series of lawsuits.
Illinois required self-employed workers to wait an average of 48 days before receiving benefits already paid by the federal government.
IDES has also been beset by unemployment fraud, with bogus claims and the proceeds of legitimate claims being taken from people’s accounts. A year ago, the FBI warned it had received thousands of unemployment fraud complaints in Illinois.
After state lawmakers demanded the immediate reopening of IDES offices, Pritzker said he expected them to reopen this summer.
IDES began to reopen unemployment offices on August 26. Offices are now open in Belleville, Champaign, Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, Effingham, Harvey, Mount Vernon, Ottawa, Peoria, Quincy, Rockford, Rock Island, Springfield and Wheeling.
IDES has updated its visitor policy, now requiring residents to make an appointment with the agency by phone before visiting open locations in person.
IDES said visitors should call the department’s scheduling hotline before making an appointment. That means residents will join the more than 40,000 Illinois residents who are currently awaiting a recall from IDES.
Appointments will then be available in 20-minute increments from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Appointments should be made at least 24 hours before the meeting time.
Residents who visit an employment center without a prior appointment will be refused entry.
For the appointment, visitors must bring photo identification and any other documents requested. Masks will also be mandatory, in line with the statewide indoor mask mandate.
Any visitor who shows symptoms of COVID-19 or who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to their appointment must reschedule their appointment.
IDES makes an appointment for:
- Identity verification for an unemployment insurance claim
- IllinoisJobLink.com Registration Assistance
- Help documenting job search activities
- Employment services, including resumes and job search advice
- Requests for the use of resources such as computers with Internet access
To make an appointment, residents can call the IDES appointment hotline at 217-558-0401.