"The stress is almost unimaginable. I haven't ever dealt with this in my life."
Benjamin Smith filed for unemployment March 22nd.
He was approved and had his first certification date on April 6th.
Money was supposed to be in his bank account two days later, but nothing was there.
"The only information I can get is when I call the Tele-Serve line. It gives me an automated message that says deductions are over my benefit amount. As far as I know I don't have deductions. They don't tell me what those deductions are," said Benjamin Smith.
He's certified twice since the initial date and still nothing.
He's called hundreds of times a day only to hear a busy signal or automated message.
He's sent emails to Governor JB Pritzker, reached out to his State Representative Mike Unes, and filed an appeal with Illinois Department of Employment Security.
With bills piling up, Smith said he felt powerless.
"Right now I've been living off my savings for the last month and a half. If we don't get this resolved shortly I have no idea what I'll do."
The last time Smith was unemployed was in 2009 during the recession.
He said filing for unemployment was easier then.
Jessica Cook asked Smith, "If the Acting Director of IDES was part of this interview, what would you say to him?
Smith said, "They basically need to explain to us what's happening and give us a way to fix it. If it's just something I have to do on my end whether I have to prove I don't have deductions or whatever the case, I have no problem doing that, but I have to be able to let you know that this is even an issue. As far as I know, unless they've read all these emails, they have no idea I'm not getting paid."
He said he's owed about $3,000.
I reached out to Unes who wasn't available for an interview but sent a statement which reads in part, "...my legislative office has worked with an excess of 150 residents of my district on COVID related issues, the majority of them being unemployment issues with IDES [...] This issue is near the top of the list when we return to Springfield."
When asked why IDES Acting Director Tom Chan hasn't been at Governor JB Pritzker's daily news briefing, a spokesperson for the department said, "The Acting Director is in regular communication with the Governor and Deputy Governors and is focused on doing the actual work within the department to ensure people receive their benefits. The Governor has provided multiple updates on unemployment and takes questions every day on this topic."
Jessica Cook asked Smith, "So what happens now?"
"That I have no idea. I'm going to continue to call. Hopefully at some point they see that appeal letter and when I guess they catch up they'll contact me. That's basically where I'm at is waiting for them."
Since the interview with Smith, he said he has reached someone at the IDES Peoria office and expects to get his money soon.