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Unemployed Illinoisans Say State's Phone Lines Are Mismanaged And Further Delaying Their Benefits

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Hundreds of phone calls, but no solution – we continue to hear from people who can't get through for help with unemployment claims or the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Those people say the state's mismanaged phone lines are furthering delaying their benefits.

CBS 2 is committed to Working for Chicago, so on Thursday night, our Tara Molina pushed the state to address those issues.

"We need a lot more transparency in the system," said Bill Mylan. "You need to tell people what is going on."

You may remember Mylan. Earlier this week, we investigated an issue with his Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claim - an issue that kept him waiting for the benefits he says he needs to survive for months.

That issue finally cleared on Thursday.

"It took me, honestly, calling for the last three days nonstop," Mylan said.

He said he spent hours and hours on the phone with the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

"If they've added more people, where are these people at?" Mylan said.

He said at one point, he was able to select a callback option. But when he finally got that call?

"She called back from the regular IDES site - she right away, when I gave her my information, she went, 'Oh you're a PUA claim, let me put you on hold,' without even telling me she put me on hold," Mylan said.

He said he waited two more hours for a call from someone who could "help with a PUA claim."

According to IDES, 512 IDES employees are working on taking calls and processing claims, with an additional 562 call center reps in the virtual call center who are trained and equipped to handle calls.

We asked if both sets of employees are handling both claims - PUA claims like Mylan's and regular unemployment claims.

"They're constantly transferring people back and forth whenever we call," Mylan said.

IDES spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco said despite Mylan's experience, IDES claims reps are equipped to handle PUA claims and questions, not just regular unemployment claims.

Cisco finally addressed a question we've asked more than once - how many more claims the IDES has been able to handle since adding the virtual call center, set-up through a contract with Deloitte.

"The addition of 562 Deloitte call center reps, with an additional 200+ in the process of being trained, has resulted in IDES handling more than 50,000 additional unemployment claims and questions that have come through the call center between May 5 – June 4," Cisco wrote in a statement. "IDES claims reps are equipped to handle PUA claims and questions."

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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