18,165 People In Illinois Are Stuck Waiting Out Penalty Weeks Before Getting Unemployment Benefits

Workers lose jobs when businesses can’t keep their doors open, and the Illinois unemployment system is having a hard time keeping up with claims.

18,165 People In Illinois Are Stuck Waiting Out Penalty Weeks Before Getting Unemployment Benefits

CHICAGO (CBS) — Workers lose jobs when businesses can’t keep their doors open, and the Illinois unemployment system is having a hard time keeping up with claims.

CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov had new information Monday about the penalty weeks that have been issued because of previous unemployment claims, which are costing some people their benefits – big time.

“Trying to do little odd jobs to take care of my family – best as I can,” said Anthony Gordon.

Gordon’s anxiety is running high as his money runs low. Almost a month after being laid off from his Ford job at the plant near 126th Street and Torrence Avenue, he is being told he cannot get any unemployment benefits until his penalty weeks are over. The weeks were slapped onto his account after he got $1,700 more than he should have.

“But I already had paid that money back already, so I’m trying to figure out what was going on, and all I’m getting is they’re saying I have a penalty, so I don’t know what to do,” Gordon said.

Adding to his panic, no one at the Illinois Department of Employment Security can tell him how many penalty weeks he faces – and his stimulus money is already gone.

“The $1,200 – that’s gone, pretty much. Paying back bills, I’ve got a daughter, so it’s like – I just need some help,” Gordon said. “Trying to figure out – I paid the money back, so why am I not getting my money?”

CBS 2 has learned Gordon is one of 18,165 people in Illinois waiting out penalty weeks before receiving any new benefits – even though they have qualified. In some cases, they are waiting up to 26 weeks.

An IDES representative said the penalty weeks are levied after accounts were flagged for fraud. Despite Gov. JB Pritzker’s concern about penalty weeks during a pandemic, the IDES representative said only a change in the law can make penalty weeks disappear, and added, “At this time, IDES is unaware of any legislative proposal from the General Assembly to defer penalty weeks for those who have committed fraud.”

Gordon said he is down to his last $300, and if no help is on the horizon, he said he would “probably be on the Dan Ryan with a cup.”

“There’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing. Nothing I can do. No jobs. Nothing,” he said

In just the past five days, we have had more than a dozen people reach out to our newsroom and to Kozlov personally in similar desperate situations – wondering if anyone will work to defer penalty weeks at this time.

Adding to their desperation, they cannot get their $600 unemployment stimulus money from the federal government either.

And while IDES said all the cases involving penalties are fraud, many say the issue was all a mistake. But they often can’t get a hold of anyone at IDES to talk about it, and if they do, they are told they have to appeal to the courts – most of which are closed.

Thus, they are stuck in a benefits black hole.

Source : CBS Chicago More