Good News For ThoseTrying To Get Unemployment Information: IDES Is Fixing Its Phone System

CBS 2's Steven Graves reports, after many frustrating months of not getting any answers from the state's unemployment office, the agency said its making improvements to the phone system used by hundreds of thousands.

Video Transcript

- And for those trying to get help, finally, a possible solution to a problem we've been covering for months-- the broken IDES callback system.

- Mhm. CBS 2 is working for Chicago. Steven Graves is live with new information about what they finally plan to do. Steven?

STEVEN GRAVES: Brett, Erica, new today, we are hearing there is finally progress in addressing that backlog of numbers in that callback queue. There's also a new system of accountability in place, but there's always that question of, will it work? Single mother of four Ciara Dillard lost a wheelchair-accessible vehicle for her daughter and almost faced eviction.

CIARA DILLARD: was really, really scared because I didn't have any money coming in.

STEVEN GRAVES: Samiki Booker had to sell her ring.

SAMIKI BOOKER: For $400 to have money.

STEVEN GRAVES: Both just a fraction of tens of thousands of people all plagued by the massive backlog in the callback system at the Illinois Department of Employment Security. People complaining about dropped calls and rude agents. For many, their unemployment benefits just stopped-- no explanation, no answers.

SAMIKI BOOKER: If you see a list of numbers you should call and say, oh, can I get some of these numbers off here? Like, what are they doing?

STEVEN GRAVES: Today, IDES Director Kristin Richards briefed state representatives on the call backlog. She says there are currently 101,000 numbers in the queue. That's down from the 155,000 CBS 2 discovered in February. On average, about 10,000 new numbers come in every day, while 12,000 get completed by about 650 agents.

CIARA DILLARD: said, it was nothing you did. It was a system error.

STEVEN GRAVES: Dillard says she finally got a callback two weeks ago, four months later. And when her issue was fixed, the calls kept coming in, nine of them.

CIARA DILLARD: my issue's been resolved. There are lots of people waiting for calls.

STEVEN GRAVES: IDES supervisors usually listen in and monitor agents. A recent change is that new data analytics will keep a record of every call to help discover if something goes wrong. They can then identify the agent. We asked, will this speed up the callbacks? Is there accountability for these agents? All questions we're waiting on, as those unemployed just want doors at physical IDES offices to open up.

And today, there were also talks about budgeting for virtual appointments, but no timeline given on if those will actually be implemented or those offices reopening. We will, of course, keep asking questions. Live in the streetside studio, Stephen Graves, CBS 2 News.