Federal Plan Is Supposed To Keep Unemployment Benefits Going, But Many Say They're Being Held Up In Illinois

More than one year into the coronavirus pandemic, a very real struggle persists for many people in Illinois as the job crisis continues to grow. CBS 2's Tara Molina reports.

Video Transcript

- Turning now to a very real struggle for so many people in Illinois. More than two years into the pandemic, the job crisis continues to grow.

- 15,000 more people filed for unemployment in Illinois and they are certainly not the only ones who need help. Dozens of people have reached out to us saying the state suddenly stopped their benefits despite a federal rescue plan in place to keep them going. Our Tara Molina is working for Chicago tonight to get answers. Tara?

TARA MOLINA: Erica, for the dozens of people who have reached out to us about this issue, people who say they're getting bad information from the state's unemployment office as they continue to wait and wait on these extended benefits.

MIKE MCARDLE: Over a year later, obviously the food and beverage industry nor the hotel industry has come back yet.

TARA MOLINA: Mike McArdle was hit with what he calls a double whammy. A food and beverage manager for a hotel chain. More than a year into the pandemic, he still isn't back to work.

MIKE MCARDLE: You're dealing with the stress of being unemployed, then you're dealing with the stress of making sure that your payments go through.

TARA MOLINA: Payments he received for 12 months. Mike was happy to see President Joe Biden sign off on the American Rescue Plan, extending unemployment benefits through this Labor Day for people like Mike who exhausted their regular year.

MIKE MCARDLE: It's supposed to seamlessly transition into that.

TARA MOLINA: Supposed to. He says that's not happening, with Mike and dozens of others telling us that federal help isn't coming quickly here in Illinois.

PAUL BOLINDER: I continued to certify, but didn't receive payments for about five weeks.

TARA MOLINA: Paul Bolender told us bad information and a lack of information from the state is as problematic as the wait.

PAUL BOLINDER: The thing that's frustrated me most of all is not being able to have any clear path to answers or any clear path to surety.

TARA MOLINA: So we worked for those answers, bringing questions from the many we've heard from in just the past week to the state. A spokesperson told me they have to review each and every claim, then work to transition people between programs. So as long as they are still eligible, they don't have to submit a new application for benefits. For those waiting, she said the most important thing they can do once they've exhausted their benefit year is continue to certify as normal. Not exactly the answer people we've talked to who are waiting are looking for.

MIKE MCARDLE: There's really no sense of urgency on fixing the problem.

TARA MOLINA: I asked that IDES spokesperson about the bad information people say they're getting from call takers within the states call system and what's being done to prevent that. She didn't address those questions in her statement response to us today. Erica?

- Tara, let's talk comparisons here, because we know there are other states handling this federal help differently.

TARA MOLINA: Exactly. In New Jersey, for example, the state has implemented an automatic system where a person is automatically enrolled in these extended benefits. I asked IDES about that. No comment.

- All right, Tara Molina reporting for us. Thank you. Well, for help finding work or getting your career back on track, check out the Working For Chicago section on our news app. Search CBSChicago wherever you get your apps then click on the section right on top.