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IL House GOP Slams Governor On Handling Of Unemployment Claims

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin in a press conference earlier this year.
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House Republican Leader Jim Durkin in a press conference earlier this year.

Illinois House Republicans in a press conference Monday said Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has not done enough to address the tsunami of unemployment insurance claims from recent weeks.

“I believe the state of Illinois has failed those Illinoisans who have been left out, that were cut out as nonessential but they have not been able to survive and also rely upon the state of Illinois through [the] Department of Unemployment [sic] Security," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said.

“Every day, my office and my colleagues’ offices, Democrat and Republican, are inundated with calls and emails, asking for help in filing for unemployment. These are people desperately asking for help telling me they can['t] afford to pay their rent, buy their groceries to their family. These Illinoisans are desperate, they are frightened and mad,” Durkin said.

A few hours later, during his daily briefing, Pritzker said IDES has been processing claims as fast as it can. Employees have logged 6,500 hours of overtime, and retired employees have returned to work. That department has also increased its phone capacity by 40 percent and has been working with technology companies to create a web bot that can respond to frequently asked questions. 

The governor said IDES has also overhauled its website infrastructure in order to process unemployment claims faster.

Pritzker meanwhile said Illinois was not prepared for the onslaught of requests, and neither was any other state. State Rep. Mike Marron (R, Fithian), however, said that should not have been the case.

“A few months ago, no one would have predicted how coronavirus would ravage our state. IDES' system should have been advanced to accommodate the influx of applicants that the order was going to create," he said.

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.