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With Job layoffs and quarantine, many people are left without a stable income. Leaving them to go to a place like the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). A place that is supposed to help the unemployed and give them a chance to get back on their feet. But they believe unemployment workers are receiving too much money and should have to pay it back. Not only that but their benefits would be reduced as well.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners who originally qualified for the benefits now are being told that they have to pay back thousands of dollars without explanation as to why. Four women apart of the state’s special Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program received overpaid balance notices from IDES, ranging from $3,200 to $8,000.
One of those women is Alexandra Eliades. She stated, “It’s very frustrating because you look at this overpayment and then you think of all the bills that you owe.” Another woman who received this bill stated, “I think it’s because we don’t pay into unemployment, but we also didn’t ask for a pandemic, just like nobody else asked for a pandemic.”
Spa owner Eligija stated “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know what to do,”. Although her spa can be open, people are still afraid to book appointments. Simona Roganovic, another PUA participant, commented, “This unemployment income is basically what we’re living off of right now… I mean, sure, maybe you can apply for some minimum wage job but what is that gonna accomplish? Nothing.”.
The women have tried calling different officials to gain an understanding of what caused this situation, but the teller’s hang-up on them. Leaving them without answers and more questions. After hearing their stories new stations like ABC 7 contacted the IDES giving the names and the documents that these women received. But they didn’t get the answers that they wanted. The IDES explained they recently added 562 additional call-center representatives, that have helped answer an additional 160,000 calls. However, they did not comment on allegations from the consumers about being hung-up on.
IDES left a statement saying, “IDES is not aware of an issue within the PUA system miscalculating weekly benefit amounts. The names you provided have been shared for a claims rep to look into. As you know, I am prohibited from discussing or providing details of individual cases.”.
As the last statement, PUA participant Eliades stated, “The government did offer us a program, and now they’re retracting their program. By charging us these thousands and thousands of dollars of overpayment… It’s not like we’re that 1 percent where we can just throw three or five grand around.”.
Similar to PUA, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act legislation included federally-funded unemployment benefits; and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation provided an additional $600 per week to individuals who received unemployment benefits. However, those benefits are scheduled to last until Friday, July 31, 2020. But participants in Illinois will stop receiving those benefits after July 25.
Other states, including Texas, will also end the benefits. The IDES was reached by ABC 7 again and received no further comment as to why they are stopping the benefits and sending the overpaid balance notices. Participants of programs are becoming frustrated and worried, but are still fighting for answers.
Written By Trinity Simmons-Brooks
Edited by Sheena Robertson
ABC 7 News: Illinois unemployment PUA participants say state demanding they pay back thousands, slashing weekly benefits
ABC 7 News: Illinoisans will stop receiving increased federal unemployment benefits after July 25
ABC 7 News: Illinois unemployment back pay still owed to some, who say they can’t get a response from IDES
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Inline image Courtesy of Júbilo Haku’s Flikr Page – Creative Commons