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As Many Still Struggle To File For Unemployment Amid COVID-19 Crisis, CBS 2 Takes Questions To State Of Illinois

CHICAGO (CBS) -- CBS 2 continues to track issues with the state's unemployment system, which is still overwhelmed by requests amid the coronavirus crash.

So on Monday night, CBS 2's Tara Molina took some out-of-work employees' questions to the State of Illinois.

We've heard from people who have tried to file for unemployment, are trying to file extensions, and people who have filed - but haven't seen a dime.

Many aren't getting through online or over the phone, so on Monday night, we reached out with their concerns.

The process looks easy enough - someone who wants to file a claim goes to the Illinois Department of Employment Security website, files that claim, and is certified for benefits.

It's something hundreds of thousands in Illinois have gone through already, with our unemployment numbers surging weekly.

But it's not as easy as it seems for everyone. Alicia Strojewska was furloughed from a dermatology office.

"To live without money? Not being able to buy food; to pay my bills," she said.

Like so many others, Strojewska needs help. This is her first time filing for unemployment.

"I don't have any, much savings to be able to survive," she said.

She has been working on filing for weeks.

"I'm very stressed," she said. "That stress actually forced me to do something, and that is why I called the office of our governor to let them know what is going on."

Hundreds of phone calls and online glitches later, one of her calls to Gov. JB Pritzker's office helped her connect to IDES employee directly.

But Strojewska says they're not answering her calls now either.

She's not alone. We have heard concerns from others, who are not getting through to get answers and the help they need.

So we reached out to the Governor's office, Illinois Department of Employment Security, and the Department of Innovation and Technology.

Jennifer Schultz, a spokeswoman for the latter aforementioned department, said they have upgrades to their system and continue to monitor it, but they can only process so many claims:

"When volumes first spiked on the IDES website and benefits application, upgrades were made to the state's servers and infrastructure to increase capacity to handle these increases. In the past week, a 24/7 monitoring tool was also added to quickly identify and resolve issues to the IDES site. Traffic to the IDES website and benefits application has experienced unprecedented increases since mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes have been made to allow for increased capacity. To put into perspective how high the traffic has been, staffers who work tirelessly to process these claims processed over 178,000 last week alone. This same week last year, those same staffers processed just over 9,000. The last two weeks has seen more than 292,000 unemployment benefit claims, an increase of 1,604 percent from the corresponding weeks last year."

Molina reached out to the spokeswoman for Illinois Department of Employment Security several times Monday, and as of the 10 p.m. hour, she still had not heard back.

When she does, she will bring specific questions to the spokeswoman directly, and we will update this story.

More From the Illinois Department of Employment Security

Illinois Unemployment Insurance Application Form

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