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Report: 99.5 percent of calls to IDES unanswered

Friday, Aug 7, 2020

* Whoa

WGN Investigates found between March 1 and July 1, there were about 78.5 million calls to IDES. Of those, 393,000 were answered. That doesn’t even reach 1% of the calls coming in.

It’s actually about one-half of one percent.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

45 Comments
  1. - ChrisB - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:29 am:

    If only there was a pool of people from which the IDES could hire to answer all of these phone calls…


  2. - NIU Grad - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:32 am:

    Total embarrassment. I understand the IDES staff need training…but they could at least expand staffing just to have people answer the phone, write down the callers information, and relay that to staff. Think of all of the state employees who have little to do right now because their jobs revolved around in-office work that could be transferred to this role temporarily.

    The Governor and AFSCME need to get together and figure this out. They’re running out of excuses.


  3. - Retired Educator - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:41 am:

    Total incompetence from top to bottom. Excuses for not doing the job properly, have run out.


  4. - The IDES of March - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:44 am:

    Where are these numbers coming from? The report doesn’t say. If true, ides has been hiding from legislators and staff


  5. - The Dude - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:48 am:

    It’s sort of misleading though as many people were calling hundreds of times a day.

    It isnt like 78 million different individuals are trying to contact them.


  6. - Back to the Future - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:48 am:

    This situation is far more than an embarrassment. For the unemployed workers being ignored by Team Pritzker it is tragic.


  7. - Fresh ideas - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:53 am:

    It would be much more interesting to see how many unique callers there were to IDES. People were calling hundreds of times a day for weeks on end, so this number, while it explains why it is so hard to get through, is simultaneously misleading as to the scope of the problem.

    Hopefully the new callback system helps alleviate part of this, and can increase the percent of people who call who are able to speak to somebody.


  8. - rentoria sanatoria - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:57 am:

    you’re doing a heck of a job there, Brownie.


  9. - 44th - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:58 am:

    no wonder fraudsters took us for millions. system overwhelmed, so the challenge is how to protect and serve.


  10. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 9:58 am:

    ===It isnt like 78 million different individuals===

    Well, yeah. I mean, there are less than 13 million people in Illinois. I don’t see it as misleading.


  11. - Just Observing - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:01 am:

    === It’s sort of misleading though as many people were calling hundreds of times a day. It isnt like 78 million different individuals are trying to contact them. ===

    Of course this includes people calling back when their initial calls went unanswered, but surely, save a few people, nobody is calling hundreds of times a day.

    This is unacceptable.


  12. - Spending and Waste - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:01 am:

    This was certainly an unprecedented economic collapse. So if IDES (or other govt agencies) were to build up capacity to handle these outlier events, how many throughout government, media, etc. would point to it as “wasteful spending” “government bloat”? Isn’t this the price we pay for austerity?


  13. - Pundent - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:01 am:

    Under normal times we talk about the waste and fraud in government and use that as an excuse to hollow it out. And then when we need it we’re nowhere near prepared. Should any of this surprise us? IDES was understaffed to deal with record low unemployment. How could we possibly expect them to deal with the current crisis? I’m not absolving the Pritzker administration of blame, they own it. I’m simply acknowledging the reality of the situation.


  14. - Back to the Future - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:04 am:

    I don’t think the problem is people calling in multiple times to get someone on the phone so they can get a benefit they are entitled to pay rent and buy food.
    I thought Team Pritzker hired a few out of state firms to deal with this problem. Perhaps he should find some Illinois Firms and workers to come to the rescue of our neighbors in this really tough time.


  15. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:05 am:

    If anyone thinks there are 78 million people in Illinois, they can’t be helped to an honest discussion anyway.

    To all that, however, it can’t be said that the current administration, weeks and now months in have handled this business well.

    If anything, what the 78 million tells me is that the compounding failure of IDES is measured by the compounding calls that are not only unanswered, but the compounding people unserved by IDES during this time.

    Overall, in an overall sense during this trying time, I’m more than happy and think the administration has shown leadership, but it’s undeniable in IDES and a couple other failings that are there are on this administration, and at some point there needs to be more movement towards solutions instead of seemingly still looking for solutions.


  16. - City Zen - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:06 am:

    Illinois Lottery and IDES should collaborate. Similar odds.


  17. - Commonsense in Illinois - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:08 am:

    While these numbers are astounding, the IDES system was never built for this volume, and it takes a minimum of six months just to get through the procurement process and an additional six months minimum to build a system that can approach handling that volume of traffic, not to mention adding staff and facilities.

    This isn’t like going to Best Buy for another extension cord.


  18. - AD - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:17 am:

    Commonsense - Could’ve done an emergency procurement. Definitely think this would qualify as one.


  19. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:30 am:

    I guess the only solution is to pass the “Fair Tax”. Then JB can fix the problem.


  20. - Larry Saunders - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:30 am:

    I just retired from state employment in DHS. Even before Rauner, state agencies were short-staffed and over-worked. I can easily see IDES workers not answering the phones. They haven’t time to do so for years, much less now.


  21. - Bertrum Cates - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:34 am:

    = It’s sort of misleading though as many people were calling hundreds of times a day. =

    You cannot schedule more than one callback.


  22. - Bertrum Cates - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:37 am:

    = Even before Rauner, state agencies were short-staffed and over-worked. =

    IDES lost some of its Federal funding for operations in the Rauner years when the agency would not fill long-vacant positions.


  23. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:42 am:

    === I guess the only solution is to pass the “Fair Tax”.===

    The 3% paying more to help pay for things?

    You know every single time you make an argument against Fair Tax during this crisis it makes the millionaire tax more appealing to the unemployed… right?

    You’re not helping, lol


  24. - SAP - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:48 am:

    Somebody needs to, ahem, answer for this.


  25. - Big Jer - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:54 am:

    Echoing what - Spending and Waste - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 10:01 am said and:

    Ed Yong, a writer for the Atlantic website, in a recent post on COV-19 mentioned Just In Time Healthcare causing issues in adjusting to COV-19. Just in Time was initially used in manufacturing and called Lean Manufacturing.

    Now I guess we have Just In Time Government services. Most of the Just in Time model is to increase efficiency and more importantly reduce costs leaving more profits.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-in-time_manufacturing

    But as companies, governments, and now IDES are finding out cutting things to the bone seems to lack adaptability and flexibility when disaster strikes.

    But COVD-19, future pandemics, climate change are causing disruptions to this Just in Time model. Some but not all is too many MBA types bringing models to industries that are not meant for MBA models.

    We’ll see if govts and companies are willing to spend on adjusting supply chains and building in a cushion (i.e. inventory or staff).


  26. - bogey golfer - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 11:10 am:

    Include me as one of the 78 million. Last used IDES back in 2011.


  27. - Captain Obvious - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 11:17 am:

    To truly evaluate the incompetence, you need to know not the number of calls, but the number of distinct phone #s making those calls. I am sure the number of unserved individuals is still staggering, but more precise and meaningful reporting statistics are needed here.


  28. - Birds on the Bat - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 11:19 am:

    Do Governor’s still own, or can JB throw the feds under the bus on this too?


  29. - snakepliskin69 - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 11:24 am:

    It’s sort of misleading…tell that to the folks who lost their jobs because the government shut their employers down, and when they go to get the services they’ve paid for, no one is around. How about you just say, “let them eat cake.”


  30. - illinifan - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 11:24 am:

    A good news report. Daughter filed and website said it did not process. Called and went into queue. Got a call back in 24 hours by a very helpful employee. She was impressed by the worker. Thought I would note it is not all bad at IDES


  31. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 11:25 am:

    - Birds on the Bat -

    Asked and answered.

    Pathetic fouls are petty to that, and i truly feels sorry for you that in all this your comment is if the governor owns it.

    Wow. Small minded folks to what is actually wrong.

    Sure, it made you feel better… but, again, it’s about you.


  32. - Merica - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 11:49 am:

    This was always going to be a disaster. We’ve never seen anything like this. In fairness, it should also be noted that the IDES union workforce wanted to be treated like every other state employee (work 7.5 hrs from home). Working from home for IDES employees is not simple, they deal with PPI (social
    security numbers, DOB’s, etc) this info is federally and state protected and has high compliance requirements. the state can’t create a secured computer system at each employees home. I understand where the union employees come from, they don’t want to get COViD-19 (understandably). Not sure what the answer is.


  33. - Cool Papa Bell - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 12:02 pm:

    Are people needing to call back in multiple times? That’s gotta be something that needs to be addressed too.


  34. - natty lite - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 12:09 pm:

    Assuming they were manning the phones 7 days a week, that’s ~3,300 calls being answered every day. Or at 5 days/week, that’s about 4,500 calls answered per day. This article below says there are 173 IDES employees answering the phones. That comes to ~18-26 calls per day per employee. If each call takes 20-30 minutes, that’s a full day. Not enough people answering calls, plain and simple. The article below mentions other states that ramped up their staffing and capabilities much more effectively. We have failed badly here.

    https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2020/04/22/illinois-has-far-fewer-staffers-working-unemployment-phone-line-than-some-comparable-states/


  35. - Mayor - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 12:11 pm:

    There are probably NOT 100’s of call backs a day from the fraud situation because you are told when you call that your phone number has been entered into the system so calling back would not do you any good. So I tried it and sure 3nough a recording came on and said we already have your number and you will be called back in the order it was received. I tested it and that is exactly what happens. I called the Gov. Officesnd the were snarrky and impolite. We can’t do anything about it. Well I can do something and that is not to vote foe JBP again.


  36. - IDES employee - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 12:31 pm:

    There were, on average, 200,000 unique callers dialing the IDES hotline per day from 04/01 - 06/15.
    Of these, 20,000 unique individuals were spoken to per day during the same period.
    10%. Not sure where WGN got their numbers but I’m looking at the Cisco CDR reports for the period.
    This is based on a call center staff that has seen more than a 50% reduction since 2002. This hollowing out of the agency was by design, and you cannot just hire people to answer the phones and say “okay, we’ll get back to you when we can.” That would be pointless. The same people we have that can actually answer the phones and modify claims are the same people who would have to review the notes of these “new hires”, review the claim status, and then call the person back and ask all of the same questions for clarity. Meaning during that time, they are not answering phones.
    CMS hiring rules, Rutan interview rules, and security background checks to comply with USDOL and IRS requirements slow the initial hiring process. Then, the training that needs to begin and to produce someone that can actually help people on the phones is a minimum of six months. But who can train them? The same people that are answering the phones now. Who by the way, include the Benefit Payment Control agents who are responsible for investigating fraud, which is kind of a problem at the moment.
    I understand the frustration, but to just point at DES and say “incompetent” is a naive and ignorant position. The same legislators who are crying foul have nearly universally rejected staffing increases during the previous two budget allocation hearings, and prior to that we had a Director who saw the declining staffing numbers under Rauner as a good thing, as it meant “small government.” Never mind that our administrative budget comes from Federal FUTA taxes, not State money, so all of that was empty posturing not saving the State of Illinois one red cent.
    You all can believe that the new Director is going to whip things into shape, but she is facing a problem two decades in the making, so don’t expect a miracle turnaround.


  37. - 44th - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 1:38 pm:

    Great post IDES.


  38. - Iamthepita - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 1:51 pm:

    As a deaf guy who always wanted to say this…

    Maybe IDES has turned a deaf ear on all these calls?


  39. - Birds on the Bat - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 2:05 pm:

    it’s about you.

    OW, you say this with a straight face. The guy who hijacks every thread and makes it about him?

    Oh, with respect.


  40. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 2:10 pm:

    - Birds on the Bat -

    “Bless your heart”, you figured out Governors own.

    Rauner knew that too, that’s why he asked FOUR people to replace him.

    Figure that’s why you responded.

    :)

    They also own the good… like Pritzker approval rating for handling the virus, and handling of the response, specifically, even with woeful things like IDES.

    Governors own. Good on you to recognize.


  41. - Monarch - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 2:59 pm:

    My son applied in March when he was laid off. He received a debit type card in the mail.

    What was the normal process before Covid? Does everyone call after they get a card to say that they need money?

    I can’t even image someone that actually has to pay rent going through what he is going through. Going on five months with nothing.


  42. - Birds on the Bat - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 3:06 pm:

    Figure that’s why you responded.

    You figured wrong. Just that, well, it doesn’t matter. Have a great weekend. LookIng forward to more of your I’m not a Democrat stories next week.


  43. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 3:14 pm:

    ===LookIng forward to more of… ===

    … me living rent free in your head?

    Stay well.

    - IDES employee -

    Here’s the thing;

    Governors own, even if process or timing or seemingly the hurdles of functioning government are making it impossible.

    At some point, it’s not about excuses, but it is about a plan, but the plan working now.

    New director, new “things”, same issues to the process.

    === You all can believe that the new Director is going to whip things into shape, but she is facing a problem two decades in the making, so don’t expect a miracle turnaround.===

    That’s not going to be good enough for those hurt by this virus brining unemployment and the process not responding.

    So far the Governor has been fortunate that the sum of his response to the crisis is greater than the lackings we are seeing, like here.


  44. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 4:02 pm:

    === me living rent free in your head?

    Me, me, me. Once again, it’s all about you. You just can’t help yourself. Sorry to tell you I’m about to pop a top and not give you a second thought.===

    Welp, I’m glad you *came back* to tell me I’m not on your mind.

    That made a lot sense.

    —————————————

    === There were, on average, 200,000 unique callers dialing the IDES hotline per day from 04/01 - 06/15.
    Of these, 20,000 unique individuals were spoken to per day during the same period.===

    The question to the process isn’t solely on reach and contact, there’s also getting to the point filings can be done and expect to be done timely too.

    A huge lift to say the least, but a lift necessary in this crisis.


  45. - Froganon - Friday, Aug 7, 20 @ 4:08 pm:

    We get what we pay for in life. Provide IDES with enough funds over the next six months, and they will be able to hire & train enough staff to handle disasters. Maintaining capacity in staffing and equipment requires tax dollars. Screaming about competence and voting for others won’t fix IDES.


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