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'Database Error' Blocks Online Unemployment Claims In Illinois

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A "database error" at the Illinois Department of Employment Security is preventing people who are out of a job from filing their unemployment claims online, leaving many scrambling to fill out the paperwork in person and wondering if they'll be able to get their benefits this week.

Unemployed workers in Illinois must file claims every two weeks to receive their benefits, but some people who receive unemployment benefits said they have been unable to file a claim online since Monday.

When Michael Martinez of Schaumburg tried to file his claim on Tuesday, the IDES website informed him of an outage for "routine maintenance."

Martinez said he tried calling the unemployment office and was told he would have to come in to file a claim in person. So, rather than spending the day looking for a job, he drove to the IDES office to file his claim.

"It's a full time job looking for work," he said.

Martinez had a 30-year career as a newspaper editor before he was laid off in March. He has been relying on a check every two weeks to help cover his bills.

"I've got a mortgage coming up and I have to feed myself, too," he said.

Martinez is one of about 29,000 people who will likely see a delayed payment due to the database error, according to IDES. That's about a third of all claimants in the state.

Claimants who showed up in person at Chicago's Pilsen office left frustrated and said they wish there had been more communication from the state letting them know the checks might not make it in time.

"Nothing they can do because the system is down," said claimant Antwainnetta Hunter.

In a statement, IDES said it was "working to resolve a database error" that caused problems with its website and the Illinois Benefit Information System and expects the problem to be fixed by the end of the week.

"We are still determining exactly what happened, but we do know this is not a cybersecurity issue. This is an internal network issue. No data was released," IDES spokesman Sam Salustro stated in an email.

Martinez questioned why he got a "routine maintenance" message on the IDES website if the problem was a database error.

While IDES is unable to accept unemployment claims online, recipients can file claims in person at their nearest unemployment office or by calling 800-244-5361. They can find the nearest IDES office on the agency's website.

"The department expects that the issue will be resolved by the end of the week and that most recipients of unemployment benefits will receive their payments by Friday," Salustro stated.

Most claims normally take two days to process, so anyone who files a claim by Wednesday should get paid benefits by Friday, according to Salustro.

At the Pilsen office staff is recommending people fill out paper applications, but they won't be able to physically put them into the system until the network is back up.

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