Sosnowski, Vella call for state unemployment offices to reopen

State Representatives Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) and Dave Vella (D-Rockford) have filed House Resolution 226 calling on the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) to reopen local offices throughout the state in order to serve the large number of residents in need of assistance with urgent unemployment claims, including the local office at 303 N. Main Street in Rockford.  

“The IDES telephone hotline system is not meeting the needs of Illinois residents, plain and simple,” Representative Sosnowski said. “We know that local IDES offices including the one here in Rockford can reopen safely with respect to COVID-19 public health guidelines. In order to achieve this, all staff and constituents would be required to wear a mask or face covering; and desks can be arranged in a way to maintain social distancing. At this point, there is no justifiable reason why essential government services like those provided by IDES cannot resume in-person to serve working families whose livelihoods have been impacted by the pandemic.”

Representative Vella added: “It is far past time for our local IDES offices to open up. The Covid pandemic has affected us all. For many, it has meant trying to put food on the table for themselves and their families much more difficult. The men and women of IDES have tried hard over these past months to help those who they can, but they have been hampered by not being in their offices and servicing their clients face to face. With the proper safety measures in place for IDES employees and their clients, a path can be made to reopen the offices and provide the full service that is necessary. It has been a very trying year. It is time now for us all to being building back our economy and our lives. One of the first steps to doing that is reopening IDES offices and getting our economy going again. I am urging IDES to reopen these offices as soon as possible.”

In a report broadcast on Chicago’s WBBM-TV/Channel 2 in March, IDES reported that as of the most recent reporting period, 155,765 calls from Illinois residents were sitting in its callback queue. At the current rate of callbacks, persons who left their names and phone numbers in IDES’ callback queue cannot expect to receive a return call until more than one month from the date they initiated their request for assistance.

Many of the 155,765 unreturned calls in the queue are complex problems requiring an Illinois resident to find and submit one or more pieces of information written on a legal form, one or more coded passwords, one or more pieces of personal secure identifying information (such as a Social Security number), or some combination of these elements. More than one phone call is often required to handle these requests for assistance, leading to a significant number of open, unresolved IDES case files.

Other Illinois state agencies do work for which face-to-face interactions are desirable or necessary and, recognizing this, have taken steps to partially reopen their offices under pandemic conditions of social distancing. Examples include the Department of Driver Services within the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State and the Family Community Resource Centers operated by the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The Illinois House of Representatives resumes its Spring Session on April 20. Representatives Sosnowski and Vella will be urging their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support House Resolution 226.

Representative Vella serves the 68th District, which includes all or portions of Rockford, Loves Park, Machesney Park and Cherry Valley.

Representative Sosnowski serves the 69th District, which includes all or portions of Rockford, Roscoe, Rockton, South Beloit, Cherry Valley, Loves Park, Belvidere, Poplar Grove, Capron and Caledonia.