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Illinois improves website and call center, designates filing days for unemployment claims

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced on Thursday, March 26, the agency is taking additional steps to address the unprecedented volume of unemployment benefit claims the department has fielded as a result of COVID-19. 

IDES is currently working through an unparalleled number of unemployment benefit claims and questions, both online and through the call center.  

Over the first three weeks of March, IDES has received more than 130,000 unemployment benefit claims, an increase of nearly 400 percent compared to the same weeks last year.  

The department received almost 115,000 claims for the week of March 21 alone, an increase of nearly 1,400 percent compared to the same week last year. Additionally, the call center continues to field hundreds of calls per minute, per day.

Department administration and staff understand and empathize with the heightened level of frustration this crisis has had on those wishing to file a claim. IDES is doing everything possible to support our customers and meet the demand for unemployment benefit inquiries and claims.

To date, the department has taken several steps to improve the unemployment benefit claims process via the online portal and the call center.

  • The website has been moved to new hardware infrastructure to handle the increased demand.
  • Web, storage, and processing capacity have been increased to meet heightened traffic demands.
  • Methods have been implemented to track COVID-19-related claims.
  • Call center capacity has been increased.
  • Daily call center hours have been extended to respond to those waiting in the queue after closure.
  • Call center staff has been supplemented by 40 percent to cut down on wait times.

We will continue to monitor both the website and the call center to identify ways to improve their functions and abilities.

IDES is now asking people to adhere to an alphabetized schedule when filing an unemployment benefit claim online and over the phone. This process mirrors that of other states, such as Colorado and New York, who are experiencing increased web traffic and high call volumes with their unemployment benefit systems. 

Online schedule for filing unemployment claims:

  • Last names beginning with letters A to M should file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays or Thursdays. 
  • Last names beginning with letters N to Z should file claims on Mondays, Wednesdays Fridays.
  • Saturdays are available for anyone who could not file during their designated window.

Call center schedule for filing unemployment claims:

  • Last names beginning with letters A to M should call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. 
  • Last names beginning with letters N to Z should call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. will be available for anyone are available for anyone who could not file during their designated window.

The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether you receive benefits or your benefit amount. Claims will be back-dated to reflect the date when a claimant was laid off or let go from their job due to COVID-19.

People with questions and those in need of assistance with unemployment benefits can visit IDES.Illinois.gov.

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