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Unemployed Workers Complain They've Been Waiting For Days For Callbacks From IDES Phone System

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Many jobless Illinois workers have taken advantage of the state's new feature in which they can skip countless calling and long hold times and let someone from the state's Department of Employment Security call them back.

The problem is, some wait times have turned into days.

We are committed to Working for Chicago, so CBS 2's Tara Molina took those concerns to the state Monday night.

IDES called their new "callback-only model" solution when it debuted last Thursday, but the people who have tried it since said it has only created more problems.

"I called that very day," said Earl Wallace.

Wallace signed up for a callback the day the state's option debuted. He was thrilled to sign-up for a guaranteed call from IDES.

A recording on the call explains: "We have implemented a callback-only model. What this means to you is that rather than wait on hold or call multiple times, you will receive a call when you are next in line without losing your place."

Days later, Wallace is still waiting.

"Never got a callback," he said.

And today, thrilled he is not.

"I just don't understand," he said. "You think they are putting something in place that is going to better serve us and then you find out you're running into the same road blocks."

We also checked back in with DeMarco Puckett, whom we talked with last week. At the time of our Friday report, he said he was told he'd get a call back in one minute and was still waiting four hours later.

"I'm still here," he said.

Yes, he was still waiting Monday too.

"Just seemed like a joke and a slap in the face, to be honest, because nothing has happened," Puckett said.

They're not alone.

We haven't heard from anyone who received a callback. Instead, people are frustrated – waiting, and reaching out to us. That is because once you sign up for a callback, you may not call again.

You have to wait for that call.

"Once the number is added, that number is pending," IDES says in the recording "We'll call you."

Molina took questions and concerns to IDES - asking if the system is working, if there are issues, and what people stuck waiting days can do.

A representative said they are working resolving early implementation issues, including the timing of the callbacks, but didn't offer any advice for those stuck waiting.

"It is extremely unfair of them to expect that we would just wait around patiently for them to fix this matter when we've been waiting three, four months already," Wallace said.

This was the IDES representative's full statement:

"Last week, IDES successfully launched the temporary "callback only model" to honor the order in which callers attempt to reach the call center for assistance. Claimants reaching the phone center will be placed in a queue and called back in order. Since the system is designed to honor the order in which calls were received, it only allows for a single pending scheduled callback at a time. With any new program, we are hard at working resolving early implementation issues, including the timing of the callbacks, as we learn more.

"When a claimant calls us, it is important that they select the appropriate numeric option that best describes the reason for their call, whether it is getting connected to a claims representative, needing help with the IllinoisJobsLink, or getting touch with the fraud division. This ensures the claimant will be served in the order that we receive their call.

"Since launching Thursday, the department handled over 14,000 callbacks."

With so many unanswered questions from the state, we are still working on getting answers.

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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