CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — An unprecendent number of people filed for unemployment this week as the COVID-19 crisis shut down businesses.
The state has been inundated with claim filings. On Thursday Governor Pritzker announced changes to improve how the state helps people through the process. It’s a welcome relief for people who have experienced problems applying.
All non-essential businesses were ordered to stop working until April 7th. Throughout the state, unemployment numbers have surged close to 1,400% in the past week. The U.S. Department of Labor reports there were close to 115,000 unemployment claims in Illinois for the week ending March 21. That’s up more than ten times from the week before.
The sudden cease of a paycheck is putting some people’s finances in limbo. Eric Moore says, “It’s just money that has to come out of my pocket for the next couple weeks that I had saved.”
People can file for unemployment benefits, but the process can be difficult. State employment offices have closed their doors and shut down, so people can’t get help filing unemployment claims in person. A sudden deluge in claims has overwhelmed the state website, causing it to shut down at times, and preventing recently laid-off workers from applying.
People can call a state number for help, but that’s been a dead-end for some too. Moore says, “You just get put on hold. I sat on the call for an hour and then it will just disconnect your call.”
Pritzker says the state is making improvements to combat these problems. The state employment website hardware has been upgraded with more storage and processing capacity to meet the increased traffic. Plus, more people have been added to their call center with extended hours to respond to the high demand for help and to cut wait times.
Across the nation, 3.3 million people filed a claim for jobless aid for the week ending March 21st.