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“This is not good”

Friday, Oct 16, 2020

* We’re going to look at this BGA story in two different posts. Let’s start with this

In recent months, IDES has issued around 1% of its unemployment checks within seven days of the initial applications, making it the slowest state in the nation by that measure. Before the pandemic, it was among the fastest.

On some key federal measurements for processing unemployment claims, IDES performed better during the pandemic than other big states or than the nation as a whole. Still, Illinois failed to meet standards in five of 10 performance measures collected by federal authorities, ranging from timely benefits distribution to the soundness of internal audits that detect fraud and underpayments. The Pritzker administration denied a request for these scorecards, but the BGA obtained them anyway. […]

In 2010, the year after Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn took office, the agency headcount stood at almost 2,000. That number declined to around 1,300 when Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner took over in 2015. When Pritzker assumed office in 2019, there were 1,100, records show.

By April, the IDES staff level had slipped to 1,041, according to state records.

“Illinois had been struggling to onboard new employees faster than the rate of attrition,” Chan told the state’s Employment Security Advisory Board.

“In other words, heading into this downturn, our baseline staffing numbers, the employees hired to operate our programs and meet minimum federal performance standards, were, despite our best efforts, at an all-time low.”

What’s more, experience had been drained from the agency.

In 2014, Chan told the panel, about 86% of IDES’ workforce had more than five years’ experience with the agency. By June it had dropped to 67%. Managers “are serving in multiple roles and performing the work of multiple employees,” Chan said, according to the board’s meeting minutes.

Amid the pandemic, on April 29, IDES contracted with a private accounting firm to bolster the force of 100-plus IDES staffers answering phones. But those new agents often did not have adequate training to answer even the simplest questions, instead transferring claimants to the better-trained IDES employees, records show.

* Also

Emails between Hynes and then-IDES Acting Director Thomas Chan — obtained by the BGA through a public records request — detail the pressure inside IDES as Illinois’ PUA program was rolled out.

“Folks — I am counting on you to launch the independent contractor unemployment system ASAP and no later than May 11,” Pritzker wrote to Chan and Hynes at 7:43 a.m. on May 4. “Can you confirm that will happen? JB.”

IDES hustled to update its policies and computer code, and minutes before midnight on May 10 Chan emailed Hynes that he and aides did a test run by filing a small sample of claims.

“Minor hiccups but no show stoppers,” Chan wrote.

Within 10 minutes of Illinois’ PUA system going live the next morning, on May 11, more than 1,500 people applied for benefits through the state portal, records show. Hynes conducted his own test minutes later.

“I called the 800 number. Hit the correct prompts for PUA,” Hynes wrote in an email to Chan at 8:01 a.m.

An automated voice told Hynes there was a high volume of calls. Then it hung up on him, Hynes emailed.

“It’s not even 830,” Hynes wrote. “This is not good.”

…Adding… I was just telling someone on the phone that I figured the “slowest state in the nation” would find its way into the 2022 campaign. The opposition isn’t waiting that long…

“It was under Governor Pritzker’s watch, and his watch alone, that the state’s unemployment agency was hollowed out, leaving them understaffed and vulnerable at a time when millions of Illinoisans were depending on assistance,” said Kayleen Carlson, executive director of Illinois Rising Action. “For months, hardworking Illinoisans were misled by Governor Pritzker and his administration for the reasons as to why they could not properly file and receive their unemployment benefits. These failures rest solely at the feet of Governor Pritzker and his administration.”

That statement is just downright ridiculous and false. But it’s par for the course for that outfit. And ‘22 is gonna be just like this if the GOP fields a candidate with enough money and gall to make it a race.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

26 Comments »
  1. - don the legend - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    ==“It’s not even 830,” Hynes wrote. “This is not good.”==

    Illinois’ version of Apollo 13 saying “Houston we’ve had a problem here.”


  2. - Annonin' - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 10:37 am:

    Ah more GovJunk memories Thanks. And a quick message to Griffy and the Roy Moore backer…We don’t think IL needs more of this so the stuff you back in 2020 need to be ignored


  3. - Friendly Bob Adams - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 10:57 am:

    It’s not just attrition, and loss of experienced staff, but let’s not forget DOIT and how it has managed to bog down all sorts of computer systems in the state. Rauner’s lasting legacy.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 11:15 am:

    To the post,

    Let’s get well beyond “this”, so we can get looking forward to the Pritzker Administration fixing this;

    Governors own… Rauner’s choices led to this ridiculous lack of resources failing an overwhelmed system.

    The Pritzker Administration has had not weeks and weeks, but months and months to get this problem to a point of servicing the needs of Illinoisans.

    Between the lacking of contact tracing, the nursing homes and prisons, this pandemic also has shown the current administration’s response, even with the hampered tools, has been “not good”, but “not good” wont help people and in some case families needing the IDES to work and work effectively during an overwhelming situation.

    “We good”?

    I appreciate that the situation is deemed not good, and the challenges of working in concert with Washington, DC, but we’re way past the idea or thoughts of “surprise” the princess is failing.

    Nimble work to solutions is past, let’s get to the solution(s) part… governing is difficult


  5. - South Side Lawyer - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 11:28 am:

    JB inherited a state whose social services had been whittled away or left to die on the vine for four years by the Rauner administration. The Gov could not magically fix the star in the 12 non-pandemic months he had before COVID hit.
    Blaming the governor for the hollowing out of government is beyond ironic, it shows a complete dissociation from reality and is an affront to everyone who suffered through impasse after impasse.


  6. - NIU Grad - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 11:30 am:

    “the state’s unemployment agency was hollowed out, leaving them understaffed and vulnerable at a time when millions of Illinoisans were depending on assistance…”

    ILGOP: Our solution is to double this hollowing out effort and block any further federal unemployment assistance, making IDES unnecessary. “Common sense” solutions.


  7. - Pundent - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 11:31 am:

    I’d like to know how Grant Wehrli feels about this given his disdain for bloated government and simultaneous outrage over the failings of IDES. If you’re going to be a champion of smaller government you have to own the consequences that go along with that.


  8. - 1st Ward - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 11:32 am:

    “Governors own… Rauner’s choices led to this ridiculous lack of resources failing an overwhelmed system.”

    What are you reading? The article states employment in IDES went down 35% under Quinn, 15% under Rauner, and to date 5% under JB with some key positions not being filled by the current Gov who is not Rauner.

    We get you don’t like Rauner but you sound like the “because Madigan” crowd with the lack of facts based on the substance of the post.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 11:36 am:

    === What are you reading?===

    Isn’t the streamlined system the past administration touted seemingly overwhelmed?

    === In 2014, Chan told the panel, about 86% of IDES’ workforce had more than five years’ experience with the agency. By June it had dropped to 67%. Managers “are serving in multiple roles and performing the work of multiple employees,” Chan said, according to the board’s meeting minutes.===

    I can read. I can even understand dates.

    :)


  10. - Dutch - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 11:56 am:

    Look at DCFS who had no staffing shortages for years and still has massive problems. The sheer number of employees does not equate to the level of service given. There has to be accountability at the top if the culture in these state agencies is going to change. And on this matter, there has to be more accountability on the legislator, mid-level supervisors, and rank-and-file state employees as well.


  11. - Bothanspy - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 12:09 pm:

    Just food for thought, but IL does not pay out the first week of a claim and certification is biweekly. So most claims, certify at the end of two weeks from the date of claim and get paid one week (of those two weeks) sometime early in the third week. By design, IL does not pay a newly filed claim within that ‘7 day from claim’ measure.


  12. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 12:20 pm:

    JB did have time to fix understaffing at state agencies. They absolutely knew that state government agencies had been hollowed out (heck, Rich even pointed this out to them), and they could have spent 2019 filling empty positions. I know for a fact that they were informed by agencies of staffing shortages. JB could have directed agencies to fill positions ASAP, but he did not. Maybe they worried that conservatives here would blast him for spending money on employees and blah blah blah waste/fraud/abuse, but hypocrisy isn’t a concern to those people so those complaints could have been safely ignored.


  13. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 12:23 pm:

    When they launched their callback system in July, that also crashed within 10 minutes.

    And IDES and/or the governor’s office still refuse to release call statistics.


  14. - Homebody - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 12:26 pm:

    The state hiring process is ponderously slow. Even if we wanted to hire a ton of people, it takes forever. My agency posted some jobs last december and only just now started doing interviews this week.

    How can we speed up that process so that hiring can actually keep up with attrition without making it easy to abuse for corrupt ends?


  15. - 1st Ward - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 12:27 pm:

    “I can read. I can even understand dates”

    Rauner took office in 2015. The quote is from 2014 when Quinn was still in office.


  16. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 12:27 pm:

    ===How can we speed up that process===

    The Shakman monitors might be a place to start.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 12:30 pm:

    === Rauner took office in 2015.===

    … then a whole General Assembly without a budget… was there also a move for a new system…

    I’m constantly amazed how no budget for an entire General Assembly, two years, is readily dismissed and seemingly “normal” to folks.


  18. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 12:32 pm:

    == And ‘22 is gonna be just like this if the GOP fields a candidate with enough money and gall to make it a race.==

    This isn’t even the half of it. Wait til the trump-loving Ricketts clan jumps in, tossing around all that Chicago Cubs money. We’ll probably get PSA’s from Javy Baez and David Ross lecturing us all on Pritzker’s lack of fiscal conservatism.


  19. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 12:44 pm:

    ==The state hiring process is ponderously slow. ==

    It can work a whole lot faster if agencies wanted it to. There are a lot of steps involved, sure, and there are required numbers of days that job openings have to be posted and things of that nature - but a lot of it comes down to agency HR staffs dithering on scheduling interviews, grading applications, and on-boarding new hires. Trust me when I say the process moves a lot quicker when agency HR directors really want it to.


  20. - 1st Ward - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 1:00 pm:

    “I’m constantly amazed how no budget for an entire General Assembly, two years, is readily dismissed and seemingly “normal” to folks.”

    It’s not normal but again the topic is IDES. Budgets passed under Quinn and Pritzker yet less IDES employees from when they started to finished. Given the hallowing out has occurred in IDES under three administrations both R’s and D’s with and without budgets it doesn’t look like passing or not passing a budget is the underlying issue. All three administrations failed in their own ways in properly Governing and staffing IDES.


  21. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 1:07 pm:

    === It’s not normal but again…===

    … you want to ignore the Rauner years, the two years without budgets, ignore what Crain’s describes… “by nearly every measure, Illinois is worse off with Rauner”… but, because *your* focus is going from Quinn to Pritzker you can’t reconcile a discussion that not having a budget for two years… never been done before… is really bad-bad

    “It’s not normal but again…”

    … I already figured in Quinn… and if you’re thoughts weren’t always to defend Rauner, you’d see it.

    === Rauner’s choices led to this ridiculous lack of resources failing an overwhelmed system.===

    Quinn made it bad, Rauner decided to make state government worse.

    === with and without budgets it doesn’t look like passing or not passing a budget is the underlying issue.===

    I dunno anyone who thinks passing or not passing a budget is… “samesies”… but you go with that.


  22. - Occam - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 1:28 pm:

    In 2010, Illinois had a 10.4% Unemployment Rate. Just prior to Covid, the rate was down around 4%. Why would anyone expect the IDES headcount to remain anywhere close to the same given the dramatic decline in the number of unemployed.


  23. - thisjustinagain - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 2:13 pm:

    The State’s hiring process appears to be a big, expensive and slow joke. It requires applicants with college degrees to come to State offices to take tests that if you can’t pass them with a high school diploma, you shouldn’t be in public without supervision. The State’s jobs website will list positions like they’re open, but then you find out they are “Class B” listings, meaning the State isn’t regularly testing (!) The process is still paper-based (an online app is being tested now). IDES has 9 postings up for Special Agents (Investigators), and 2 Revenue Analysts for Cook County. Where the ads for UI caseworkers to answer phones and process claims?? If we’re that short they should have continuous applications like the State has done for other slots until the backlog is filled.


  24. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 2:38 pm:

    ===State offices to take tests that if you can’t pass them with a high school ===

    One of the most challenging questions I have ever been asked was on one of these tests. It involved troubleshooting functionality problem with a microcomputer.

    I got the answer wrong.

    After the test was over, used google to find out that a microcomputer is a Commodore 64. This was in the 2010s.

    ===It requires applicants with college degrees to come to State offices===

    Creating barriers for entry helps protect the status quo.


  25. - RNUG - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 3:31 pm:

    == Look at DCFS who had no staffing shortages for years and still has massive problems ==

    While DCFS may not have had open positions, their front line headcount is woefully short of what is needed for the caseload they have … and I’m sure it has gotten worse since Covid.

    I don’t know the current numbers and don’t feel like doing the research on a Friday afternoon, but a few years back each caseworker only had, on average, 20 minutes a year per client, to meet, evaluate, develop a plan, file the paperwork, and monitor for compliance. You can’t fix anything with that little time. But no one wants to spend the large amount of money it would take to be a real social service agency.


  26. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 16, 20 @ 3:33 pm:

    ===had no staffing shortages===

    What planet are you on?


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