Illinois unemployment: IDES PUA payments, benefits open for self-employed to file; problems reported

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The self-employed have the ability to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance on Illinois' Department of Employment Security website starting Monday, but the ABC 7 I-Team heard from several callers who said the new link for self-employed and gig workers should be more prominent.

There also continue to be complaints about those phone lines, despite 100 new agents answering the phones.

"It's not even letting me log in at this point," said barber Mick Santiago.

RELATED: Illinois unemployment: Login problems, long waits, other issues persist as thousands apply for benefits

He and other self-employed workers said they are having trouble finding the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, link on the Illinois Department of Employment Security website. The feature launched Monday to help contracted and self-employed workers file for state and federal benefits.

"It wouldn't even let me file, so I logged out and I have been navigating the website," Santiago said.

The PUA link is not obvious. On the front page, you first have to click on "File an Unemployment Claim" then, under a video, you click "File for regular unemployment benefits" if you have never applied for unemployment.

If you are self-employed and have already applied for state benefits and been rejected, then you click on the "File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance" link.

IDES spokesperson Sam Salustro said as of Monday morning 44,000 Illinoisans have accessed the new portal, and that tens of thousands of applications have been filed.

RELATED: Will new changes to Illinois' unemployment filing system be enough?

He added that a program like this would usually take a year, but it was up and running in four weeks.

Friday Salustro spoke about overall website improvements.

"There are still going to be glitches with it because of the amount of people using it, but the fact is we have processed over 1 million claims in the last couple of weeks," he said.

IDES also admitted that call volume is still high even with 100 new agents.

That's a problem for Santiago, because he said even after finding the right PUA link, he had been getting an error message and needs to speak with someone on the phone.

"I was calling the 800 number and for a while it was answering, and it had a prompt if you're filing for a PUA to hit 1, but then it kept saying the lines were busy," he said.

If you are having specific problems which can't be fixed through the website and the chat function, you will have to keep calling. That call center will soon be staffed with an additional 100 agents on top of the ones who started Monday.

START HERE TO GET PUA BENEFITS

Click this link to be taken to the IDES website. Read the instructions carefully: Before you click, have you already applied for state benefits and been denied? If you haven't, you still need to apply for state benefits before filing for PUA benefits.
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