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More Illinois Unemployment Claimants Are Finding Themselves Locked Out By ILogin Verification System And Left High And Dry

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The state security system meant to stop fraudsters from stealing unemployment money is keeping people out who really need it.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported Thursday, tens of thousands of people are waiting for help, per our most recent public records request. And it's a wait people like Brandon Harold can't afford.

"I was lucky enough to be able to work through the pandemic, and now when I get laid off in the winter… I was pretty much in tears figuring out how I was going to pay my bills," he said. "It's going to be a month or two until I can get back to zero balance."

He spoke to us masked in a public library.

"A month without any money - you're stuck," Harold said.

Harold said issues with the state's system and long waits for help left him stuck for too long.

"I don't have internet at home, because I couldn't pay the bill due to unemployment not getting me money on time," he said.

In Harold's case, the problem was ILogin - the security measure implemented by the state to keep fraudsters out.

"You can't even get past this one part of the website," he said.

But we continue to hear from people like Harold - legitimate claimants getting blocked by something intended to block fraudsters.

"The system would freeze," Harold said.

He and other claimants are forced to wait on returned calls for help from the state to move forward. There are thousands waiting.

Through public records requests, we know that 23,688 phone numbers were in the state's system Monday.

The bigger picture is the graph below – which plots out the numbers since June and shows them inching back up.

IDES Call Center Queue Graph
(Credit: CBS 2)

A total of 11,765 claimants are waiting on password or login help Monday… That is up about 1,000 since Friday, when there were 10,647.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Employment Security issued the following statement:

"IDES is not aware of any current reported issues with the ILogin system. Claimants are always encouraged to visit ides.illinois.gov/ilogin or call the Claimant Services Center at (800) 244-5631 for support. The timeline for receipt of IDES benefits has not changed. Claimants can review the IDES benefits timeline for more information. IDES continues to proactively manage the call center and quickly respond to claimant inquiries. Callback times fluctuate week-to-week based on changes in incoming volume but overall wait times are not up, based on the most recent data. All IDES workforce offices remain open for in-person appointments. Claimants can visit the IDES website for information, or call the Scheduling Hotline at (217) 558-0401.

"IDES call center agents pivot to meet demand, and some call center agents are trained to address specific issues, like assisting claimants with their weekly certification."

Harold did end up getting help and benefits in the end – but it took weeks to address the issues he had to get to that point. He is hoping speaking out makes a difference.

"Put yourself in our position - you don't have any money coming in," he said. "It's been like a month and all your bills are stacking up."

Molina checked in Thursday with other state departments to ask if they are having any issues with ILogin. Jennifer Jessen Schultz, communications director for the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology, responded with this statement:

"At this time, the agencies utilizing ILogin for public-facing applications are DES and DPH (Unemployment Insurance Benefit and Vaccine Verification systems, respectively) and there are currently no reports of technical issues. ILogin was first integrated with the unemployment insurance benefit system at IDES in the fall of 2021 to strengthen security through identity verification and multi-factor authentication."

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