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More Than One Third Of Unemployment Claims In Illinois PUA System Have Been Rejected

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Hundreds of thousands of Illinois' gig workers, contractors, or self-employed workers have applied for jobless benefits due to COVID-19.

And for months, we're been hearing horror stories from applicants who say they haven't seen a dime.

The CBS 2 Investigators are uncovering just how many of these out of work people are still not getting paid.

Our public records request produced nearly 500 pages of weekly status reports. Those reports are sent from Deloitte, the contractor hired to install and maintain the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) state website, to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).

The reports reveal why people like Jonathan Robinson, who filed for PUA benefits, haven't received their money.

Jonathan Robinson didn't get fired from his leasing job in April.

But he might as well have.

Because after schools shutdown he had to take over as primary caregiver for his two young children. That meant he couldn't work. He applied for PUA and went into a never-ending spiral.

"It was denied, it was pending, it was denied, it was pending," he said.

According to IDES' own website, he qualified for PUA benefits.

Apparently it's not that simple.

"Oh, we don't see the document, or PUA doesn't cover that, or you didn't apply for PUA," Robinson reiterated all of the explanations he received through months of denials, appeals, and reconsiderations.

At last check he was told benefits were still "pending."

"Every time I call or request a call back I'm running into issues and no one seems to know what's going on," he said.


So how many people are in Robinson's shoes? We wanted to know. So we requested 20 weeks' worth of status reports and painstakingly sifted through them all.

We discovered:

• On July 17, 142,156 claimants had not been paid – that was 43% of all active claimants and the highest of the year.

• The week of August 21 saw the lowest number of unpaid claimants: 131,328 or 37% of active claimants.

• The week of October 9 (the most recent weekly status report) 142,580 out of 392,833 had not been paid.

That's 36%, or one out of three people, applying for PUA and getting nothing like Robinson.

The records show that's pretty much par for the course since IDES contracted with Deloitte to run the system back in May.

We also wanted to know why these people aren't getting paid.

Robinson told the CBS 2 Investigators he hasn't seen a dime, "…not a dime. Since April 19."

The records show that unpaid claims boil down to two main categories. Each unpaid claim can be in more than one category.

Identity verification issues stonewalled more than 40,000 claims as of last week's report.

Certification issues held up more than 85,000 claims that same week.

Robinson wasn't shocked to learn how common his issues are.

But he'd like more transparency and more communication.

"Now it's time for me to get some of those benefits that I paid into for years and years. And now that it's time to do that its disappointing that I now have to go through these hoops and hurdles to do so," Robinson said. "And I'm still waiting. Still waiting."

It's important to note that in providing additional weeks of federally funded state benefits to these specific types of workers, the PUA system also provided an $300 to $600 per week for much of the summer. The $300 per week benefit ended in early September.

Shortly after that, on September 17, the PUA system was down from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The records show it was a "view" problem on the "home page and payment history screen." That issue was resolved by removing the problem code.

Nearly five months after the site went live, problems still arise.

The state contract with Deloitte totals nearly $9.5 million to install the system, train employees and maintain and resolve problems and defects. Illinois has already paid $6.2 million of that amount.

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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