Illinois House GOP calls on Pritzker to reopen unemployment offices

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois House GOP Representatives on Thursday called on Gov J.B. Pritzker (D-Ill.) to reopen the state’s employment security offices and get people back to work.

The unemployment rate in Illinois is 7.1%. Illinois Department of Employment Security offices have been closed since last year, so the only option is for people to call.

State Rep. Martin McLaughlin (R-Barrington) said IDES has “failed completely” and needs to serve people in person. He pointed to Secretary of State offices that have been open since June as a comparison.

“We believe that direct contact with IDES is the most effective way to handle emergency cases that have stretched for many weeks, leaving citizens on the verge of losing their cars, homes, and ability to care for their families,” he said.

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) said most unemployment cases cannot be resolved over the phone, and there is absolutely “no reason” why IDES offices aren’t open to serve his constituents.

“It’s just not a quick phone call, 30 seconds. Having that in-person opportunity to work on issues of fraud, issues of complicated problems where additional paperwork needs to be taken care of,” he said.

State Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-St. Charles) said those receiving unemployment benefits need to start looking for work.

“It’s time we encourage our workforce to get back to work and realize that we’re having to come out of this pandemic, that’s going to require then to gauge within the workforce again. It’s time to foster our economic recovery in the state and they have to be part of that,” he said.

Ugaste pointed to childcare as a reason for people not going back to work and came up with a solution. He said funds appropriated for COVID-19 relief through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan could be redirected to childcare.

“All too often we’re hearing that a lot of the reason people are not returning to work is they can’t afford the childcare that would go with it. Well if that’s the issue, let’s get them back to work. Let’s get them productive again. Let’s get our businesses to reopen and provide assistance for childcare, instead of assistance for them to stay home and do the childcare directly,” he said.

Childcare funding is part of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan but has been met with resistance from Republicans who say infrastructure constitutes roads and bridges, not childcare.

WMBD reached out to IDES for comment.

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