Thousands of unemployed Illinois residents waiting on call back from IDES

Tens of thousands of unemployed Illinois residents are waiting on a call back from IDES, the agency in charge of unemployment benefits

That is after the governor dumped millions into IDES upgraded technology.

FOX 32 is partnering up with the Illinois Policy Institute to help get taxpayers some answers.

Justin Neal is waiting for a call back from the unemployment office. He has been receiving pandemic unemployment assistance, or PUA, since last year. 

Now, he is trying to get a fraud issue corrected on his account.

Neal says he has reached out to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, calling them...a lot.
"More than like 30 times. And every time I call, I get put on this queue - this call back list," said Neal.
And he’s not the only one.

The Illinois Policy Institute filed two Freedom of Information Act requests.
"What they show is that back in March, there were still over 100,000 total calls waiting for calls back...only fallen to 75,000 calls," said Adam Schuster, Senior Director of Budget and Tax at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Schuster says it is hard to say whether that improvement is a result of IDES doing a better job, or it is just the economy improving. 
His organization even started receiving calls in the fall. People thought they were calling IDES. 

Not only are thousands of calls going unanswered, but Schuster says clerical errors lead to overpayment, and it is taking too long to determine eligibility.
Gov. Pritzker addressed the call backlog numerous times over the past year, most recently when he sat down with FOX 32's political editor Mike Flannery two months ago. 
The number of unemployment claims did skyrocket in spring of 2020 – 10 to 20 times the normal amount, but Schuster says so has the budget for IDES. 

 From $281 million in 2009 to $316 million this year – money, Schuster says, is not the problem. 
The fix, he says, is at the top with leadership figuring out what is breaking down the process. 

Neal has another short term solution: Being able to talk to someone face-to-face. 
"Just reopen the offices back up. Stop having people go to this 1-800 number that is not useful," said Neal.
Until then, he will continue to call.