'We're going to get this right,' Illinois governor says about unemployment filing process

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some displaced restaurant workers waited in line for hours for a free box of groceries in River North.

Sysco Chicago partnered with Tzuco to help their industry colleagues.

"This is really helping. I'm going to try to take what I need but not more than that so everyone gets a little bit," said Alec Steckhan, a laid off restaurant worker.

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on the economy. Millions of people across the country are out of work, struggling to make ends meet.

RELATED: US unemployment claims reach record 3.28M this week amid coronavirus crisis

"We have seen an enormous uptick in our traffic for unemployment, getting unemployment, applying for unemployment. We have also seen a big spike of emergency SNAP benefits," said Teri Ross, executive director of Illinois Legal Aid Online.

Some Illinoisans continue to struggle with navigating the state's online portal to file their unemployment claims.

"The servers are all down, phones lines are busy. I have been trying to reach out for five days," said Amil DeSilva, who recently lost his job due to COVID-19.

RELATED: Unemployment in Illinois: Workers experience issues filing for benefits, website flooded with claimants

Governor JB Pritzker said during his daily briefing Thursday that a record number of people had successfully filed their claims with the Illinois Department of Employment Security, more than 17,000 applicants since midnight.

"We're going to get this right and we're going to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to file for unemployment claims," Pritzker said.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security asked residents on Thursday to adhere to an alphabetized schedule when filing for unemployment online or over the phone.

For online filing, those with last names beginning with letters A-M are asked to file their claims on Sundays, Tuesdays or Thursdays. Those with last names beginning with letters N-Z are asked to file their claims on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who couldn't file on their allotted days.

For filing by phone, those with last names beginning with letters A-M are asked to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Those with last names beginning with letters N-Z will be asked to call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Fridays will be available for anyone.

RELATED: Having difficulty filing for unemployment in Illinois? Try these tips during the coronavirus crisis
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Have you or anyone you know encountered issues when filing for unemployment during the coronavirus crisis? Illinois officials recommend trying these tips.

Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, said the demand for her agency's services has increased dramatically.

"So we serve two clients. We help employers hire people and we also help employers when they're beginning to have a reduction in force, so we are getting slammed on both sides," she said.

Norington-Reaves said there are some companies still hiring during this economic downturn.

She advises job seekers to use this time to sharpen their skillset with online training programs.

"Our economy is going to recover. We're going to get past this crisis and people are going to get back to work. The question is what will these jobs be and will you be prepared to take them," Norington-Reaves said.

For more information and opportunities for job seekers, visit the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership's website here.
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