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Gig Workers Say Their Unemployment Benefits Are Being Held Up By Audits And They Can't Wait Anymore

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Audits are holding up the federal money they're desperate for - that's what some gig workers tell CBS 2.

The workers say they can't wait any longer for the benefits they need.

CBS 2 is committed to Working for Chicago, and on Monday night, CBS 2's Tara Molina was investigating their issues and asking the state what they're doing to address them.

Gig workers like Bill Mylan want to know why the state is holding up an application now, when they've had his information for months.

Mylan is usually whipping up barbecued brisket, smoked chicken, and ribs right now. But with all large events canceled, his business is on pause while he figures out how he'll pivot.

"We've missed out on two to three good months of making money already," he said.

Mylan has had no income since March, when he first applied for unemployment, eventually going through the state's Pandemic Unemployment Assistance portal because he's considered a gig worker. That application went through last month as soon as the portal opened.

"I've been doing little odd jobs for my landlord just to get by; make ends meet," he said.

But now, another wait has been thrown into the mix.

"It says on my claim it's a benefit payment control issue," Mylan said.

And when you call the Benefit Payment Control phone line, you'll get a recorded message of someone saying, "We are closed due to unforeseen circumstances."

After hundreds of other calls, Mylan said he got through to Illinois Department of Employment Security to ask about what a Benefit Payment Control issue is.

"They said it's an audit," he said. "I don't understand why now, the last step, is all of a sudden to do an audit when we've been in the system."

Molina reached out to IDES for more information. Spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco said they aren't random audits - the Benefit Payment Control division is within their fraud division:

"Each claim filed in the PUA system goes through a check based on the responses provided by the claimant. The PUA system will also check with the regular unemployment system to determine if the claimant is eligible for regular unemployment benefits. Per federal guidelines, a claimant will receive benefits from the regular unemployment system if they have been determined eligible for regular benefits.

"The Benefit Payment Control (BPC) division is the IDES fraud division. When a case is reported for fraud, the BPC will step in to investigate and make a determination after assessment and investigation. This unit it performing the job duties as required.

"2020 first quarter data surrounding overpayment detection and recovery activities is not yet available."

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We'll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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