48th District State Senator Andy Manar wrote a series of tweets over the weekend with graphs and charts detailing some of the context of problems at the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Manar who is part of the Democratic Senate delegation that is part of the state budget committee says that there are several lessons to be learned from all the problems with the current unemployment crisis.
Manar says that the government can’t meet expectations without proper resources. “The volume [of claims] is the challenge, and that is something that the department is continuously working through. If you look at the sheer volume, let’s think about your kitchen sink as an example and turning the tap water on to a steady drip, one drip after the next, and the flow of the water doesn’t go up or down – it’s just a steady constant. That’s what the agency has been built to handle, a slow and steady drip. Think about turning that into a fire hose literally in immediate fashion. That’s the volume of what the Illinois Department of Employment Security is dealing with. Now, I’m not saying this because that’s an excuse or that is a reason why we shouldn’t press the bureaucracy to work better, faster, and work harder for people that are in need of help. My point is to put some context onto what they are dealing with to better understand the challenges we are facing.”
Manar says that the information has to be put into proper context before the next state budget is written on July 1st. Manar pointed out that IDES is spending less money now than it did a decade ago and has nearly 500 less employees. He says the trimming of the department’s budget and employees is following along with what many other states have been doing in recent years. Manar says that with the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the less amount of money and employees are handling 7 times the amount of calls and unemployment requests than they did during the Great Recession of 2009.
Manar says that no one was prepared for the onslaught of the virus. “We should also be realistic in that there is no scenario that would have prepared the department for what it is facing. There’s no department in the country that was prepared for the volume of what has been coming at them over the past few months.”
Manar says that people still having trouble getting through to IDES to file a claim or getting denied should continue to try. He’s encouraged members of his district to call his office. “I urge people to call my office. We were fielding a hundred calls a day, and we did our best to work through and continue to work through every issue with every single one of the constituents that call my office. Sometimes there is a misunderstanding about, for example, independent contractors should file today to be denied. That denial is actually progress, because that denial will be used – the information contained in that denial will be used so that on May 11th when the new [PUA] system goes live, that information will be used immediately [to satisfy their claim.]”
Manar says that some of the other errors are simply clerical and typographical errors that his office has helped members work through. He says that he hopes the 1099-self employment filers will have ease of access when the PUA system goes live on Monday. He encourages anyone in surrounding districts to contact their local Senator or Representative if they continue having problems. Manar believes that patience and more funding for IDES may help stem some of the problems citizens are facing when filing for unemployment benefits.