Department of Employment Security launches ‘callback only’ program for claimants
By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – The state of Illinois saw slight decreases in the number of people filing first-time unemployment claims as well as the number of people receiving continuing benefits during the week that ended July 4.
But those gains were more than offset by increases in the number of people applying for and receiving benefits under another program designed for people who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday that it processed 39,015 initial unemployment claims during the week, which was shortened by the Independence Day holiday weekend. That was down from 43,934 initial claims filed the previous week, a decline of 11 percent.
At the same time, however, the U.S. Department of Labor reported a sharp increase in first-time claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the federally-funded program for independent contractors and others who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment insurance. Initial filings under that program rose 31 percent to 42,785.
That brought the total number of people filing first-time claims under both programs to 87,682, up from 78,339 the week before.
Those numbers mirrored national trends as many states, including Illinois, have started reopening their economies. Nationwide, initial claims for traditional unemployment benefits fell 2 percent, to 1.4 million, while initial PUA claims rose more than 4 percent to just over 1 million.
Meanwhile, the number of Illinois workers receiving continuing benefits under traditional unemployment insurance fell to 667,460, a decline of about 1.4 percent from the previous week.
Nationally, the number of people receiving continuing benefits fell 3.6 percent to 16.8 million.
Data on continuing benefits in the PUA program lags behind that of the traditional unemployment program by two weeks. The Department of Labor said 108,112 people in Illinois were receiving continuing PUA benefits during the week that ended June 20, up 15 percent from the prior week.
Effective Thursday, IDES also implemented a “callback only” model for assisting applicants with unemployment questions or issues. On its website, the department called it a “temporary solution to effectively honor the order in which callers attempt to reach the call center for assistance.”
The new model will be in effect for the Claimant Services Center (800-244-5631), IllinoisJobLink.com (877-342-7533), Benefit Payment Control (800-814-0513) and the Employer Hotline (800-247-4984).
As complaints about an inability to reach IDES about issues with claims continue to mount, the new system aims to return calls in the order they were received, rather than forcing callers to wait on hold or call multiple times.
Callbacks will occur Monday through Friday. Claimant Services Center hours are 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., while IllinoisJobLink.com, Benefit Payment Control and Employer Hotline hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Only one pending callback can be scheduled in the system at a time. The call from IDES should display on Caller ID as 800-244-5631, but in certain cases, this number could be blocked phone carriers.
If a callback is missed, IDES staff will attempt to leave a voicemail and will call again shortly after the first attempt, according to a news release. Those who miss both calls will be required to contact the call center to schedule another callback.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.