CHICAGO (CBS) — Who is on the other end of the line when you call the Illinois Department of Unemployment Security?
It’s a question we’ve worked to answer for months. On Tuesday night, CBS 2’s Tara Molina dug up new information about the IDES’ multimillion-dollar contract with consulting giant Deloitte.
Molina asked, again, how the people handling your unemployment benefits are trained and where they are located.
“I would call it a complete failure,” said Earl Wallace.
Wallace is still waiting on unemployment benefits he applied for months ago, and is talking about IDES and their new callback model.
It is something the agency called a solution for those waiting to get through for unemployment help over the phone.
But since its debut, more than 3 weeks ago, we’ve heard issue after issue.
“I eagerly waited for the phone call and nobody ever called,” Debbie Ogden told us last week.
Most recently, there have been more than a dozen complaints to us about returned calls from IDES that failed to answer questions, fix problems, or address why claimants weren’t receiving unemployment benefits.
Wallace told us after waiting a week for a call back, he was back in the callback queue Tuesday night.
“After waiting all that time for a return phone call, what I got was someone who was not prepared to answer the question I actually had, and then on top of that, to add insult to injury, hung up on me in the middle of the discussion,” he said.
That left Wallace questioning exactly who was on the other end of the line.
“People are providing these individuals with their Social Security numbers when they’re calling them,” he said. “We don’t know who were talking to.”
We tried to find out.
CBS 2 filed a public records request to get our hands on the multimillion-dollar contract the state awarded Deloitte, updated May 29t, for “telephone agent services.”
The agreement lists the subcontractors Deloitte then signed-up to man the call center. One is based in Illinois. The other three are not.
More than $2 million were estimated for a company in Texas, more than $4 million for a company in Pennsylvania, and more than $1.7 million for a third in Indiana.
Gov. JB Pritzker insisted, from the beginning, that all new call-takers would be local
“Every one of the people that is hired in that call center is from Illinois,” Pritzker said on May 7.
So Molina followed up with the state.
A spokeswoman for IDES said the subcontractors may be out of state, but those contractors were only allowed to hire people from Illinois.
When Molina asked where that line is in the contract, and for proof of those hires, she did not get it. And it’s not the first time IDES has held back in answering our questions.
We’ve tried to learn more about how those call-takers are trained, making a different public records request for details on how the new IDES employees who were hired during the pandemic are being trained to work with claimants.
We got back a document with page after page of redactions and text totally blacked out – making answers to questions and concerns like Wallace’s impossible.
“We don’t know who were talking to,” he said. “I know I talked to someone who wasn’t interested in talking to me and hung up the phone.”
Again, IDES spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco maintains all of Deloitte’s call agents are from Illinois.
In a statement, she wrote: “We have made it very clear with Deloitte that all call agents hired to work in the virtual call center be from Illinois. They have fulfilled this request.”
Deloitte also said, “Per the Governor’s directive, all of Deloitte’s call center agents supporting IDES are Illinois residents.”
But the state still hasn’t provided any documents proving that – just statements.
CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.
We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.