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Lyft Driver Who Waited Months For Unemployment Benefits Calls Pandemic Unemployment Assistance System Incompatible With Existing System

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A $22 million headache -- that's what some who have waited months for unemployment benefits calls Illinois' Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system. A man CBS 2 spoke with says the system's incompatibility with the state's existing system could have cause his wait.

CBS 2 has heard a number of complaints about the PUA system. It's meant for gig workers in Illinois, who have to be denied regular unemployment benefits first, but it's not always a simple process for people like Eddie Brown.

Brown was a Lyft driver. His last ride was mid-March. That's when he applied for unemployment.

"It's very difficult to even get to the point you can talk to somebody," he said. 

After hundreds of calls and almost three months of waiting, he said he's finally getting unemployment benefits. But he said he learned something else along the way.

"What I found out is that the two sites don't communicate with each other," he said. "The regular unemployment and the pandemic site.

The state set up the system through a no-bid contract with Deloitte, worth millions.

"There's something that's not clicking in that system that needs to be fixed," Brown said.

And while he acknowledges the statewide confusion over rideshare drivers didn't help, he claims he learned from his experience. Once he got through for help, the PUA system and the state's existing system aren't compatible, he said.

"They don't communicate with each other," Brown said.

He said that could be behind the delay many in his position are dealing with. CBS 2's Tara Molina asked the state about that, reaching out to the Illinois Department of Employment Services and the governor's office with his claims. An IDES spokesperson released the following statement regarding these concerns:

"IDES is not aware of this being an issue. It sounds like it may have been an issue unique to this claim, not a systems issue. As you are aware, the Department is prohibited from commenting on the status of or providing details of individual claims due to confidentiality provisions. In general, eligibility for PUA is dependent upon applying for and being denied regular unemployment benefits."

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