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People Struggling To Get Access To Illinois Unemployment Benefits Say Things Changed After CBS 2's Reporting

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A total of 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment in six weeks.

Through CBS 2's commitment to Working for Chicago, we dig into problems Illinoisans face when applying for and receiving unemployment benefits. On Tuesday night, our Tara Molina is following-up on some of those issues and getting results tonight.

We heard from a number of people we've talked to in the past couple weeks, who've received the help they needed after we started asking questions.

But what about the hundreds of others who need help? We're learning about the changes made to help them too.

One question stood between Laurie Pliska and her unemployment benefits. That question was, "Did you actively look for work?"

Confused about how to answer, when she has a job to go back to, she answered no.

But the Illinois Department of Employment Security told us people in that position should choose yes.

"As you know the able and available to work requirement requires claimants to be able and available to work for suitable jobs in which there is a market for work. If an employee was sent home from their job and told that they would be recalled when the shelter-in-place order is lifted, or after another period of time has elapsed, able and available for work simply means that they will return to work when recalled," IDES spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco said in a statement.

"Claimants should select 'yes' for this question if the above scenario describes their situation," Cisco's statement continued. "Please note that this may not be the only reason for which a claimant is denied benefits."

And to fix the error, applicants have to do something easier said than done – get through to them over the phone.

Only, Pliska said, after our story aired, did she hear from an IDES worker.

"She joked that you got the ball rolling; you started something and kind of opened up Pandora's box," Pliska said.

The fix?

"They changed something in the system that allowed all of those to go through," Pliska said.

And it was not just on her claim.

"I asked her, you know, this was a group that was help up because of that question?" Pliska said. "And she said it seems like it was, and they've all been released automatically."

Steven Love and Carreion Blacher said they got a call after one of our reports aired too.

"You don't know how much we want to thank you," Blacher said. "Wow. They actually contacted us finally, after being on hold for so long and just waiting."

They got a call from Key Bank, with whom the state contracts with for debit cards that are an option for receiving unemployment benefits.

Like several others we've heard from, Love and Blacher had money released to an account, but no card to access it with.

They say Key Bank told them they're working on that.

"He said he was going to send me one. He was going to expedite it and get it shipped out with next-day shipping or next couple days shipping, and gave me a tracking number," Love said.

Unfortunately, those aren't the only issues people are running into.

We know the state isn't alone in the struggle to meet increasing demand for relief. A study of the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Labor, breaking down unemployment benefits and claims from March, shows Illinois was only able to approve 11.8 percent of the claims filed here.

Nationally, the average is 14 percent.

Gov. JB Pritzker said we can expect a review of where Illinois stands with unemployment and unemployment related issues this week. On Tuesday night, we were still waiting on that review.

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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