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Gig Workers Are Supposed To Start Getting Illinois Unemployment Benefits On Monday, But Will System Handle It?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- They've waited weeks and weeks for help, but starting Monday, Illinois gig workers should start receiving unemployment benefits.

That is when Gov. JB Pritzker says the state's system to process their claims will be up and running. But will it be able to handle all those claims?

CBS 2's Tara Molina again brought her questions directly to the state, because people we've talked to are desperate and say they can't afford to wait any longer.

"My hands are tied," said Darin Ortmann. "I'm broke."

A nanny of nearly a decade, Ortmann has been out of work for nearly two months and is down to his last few dollars.

"I got nothing right now," Ortmann said. "I have $3 to my name and that's to do laundry."

That's right, three dollars.

"I've broken down crying so many times, just feeling helpless," he said.

Ortmann is one of thousands in Illinois – the gig workers, the self-employed, 1099-ers – who were not eligible for unemployment benefits before COVID-19 hit.

"I don't have any options to do anything at this point except sit and wait," he said.

The people in those labor categories have waited and waited on the multimillion-dollar system the state set up to handle their claims. They are hoping that system can handle them.

"I'm still, myself, just like, is this really going down Monday?" Ortmann said.

A spokeswoman for Illinois Department of Employment Security said the system be ready to start accepting the claims Monday.

"IDES has contracted with Deloitte to stand up the (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) program. The portal will be live and begin accepting applications on Monday," spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco said in a statement. "There is no backlog in issuing unemployment benefits. As you know, IDES has done a number of things to streamline the filing process, including moving the website to new hardware infrastructure, expanding web capacity, expanding the call center, and standing up a virtual call center with an additional 200 representatives.

But when we asked Pritzker if the system will be ready to handle the thousands of pending claims, claims people have waited a long time to file, here is what he said:

"Many, many applications have been processed," Pritzker said. "We're going to talk about this later in the week, so people can see what's being done."

Of course, we will make sure to bring you that update. As for a timetable, when gig workers can expect to actually start receiving benefits, neither the Illinois Department of Employment Security nor the governor have made that clear.

And meanwhile, Ortmann had some parting words for this time of crisis.

"Be nicer to people. You don't know what everybody is going through," he said. "I know everybody is scared, but be cool to people."

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