Illinois unemployment offices have been closed to public access since the stay at home order was put in effect earlier this year.
But Governor J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday there was another safety reason for keeping the doors locked.
Pritzker said there have been reports of threats against the Illinois Department of Employment Security and its workforce.
“And it makes it much more difficult to maintain their security when we open those offices physically,” he said.
The agency has been under scrutiny because of people facing technical difficulties in signing up for benefits. The Governor has blamed the problem on an old system that was unable to handle unprecedented demand.
"To date, there have been a number of threats made against our employees that have been serious enough that the Department has sought the help of the State Police and local law enforcement, including the vandalization, broken windows, and graffiti of a local office and a bomb threat to another local office," said Rebecca Cisco in an emailed statement. "And those are just some of the more serious threats that have been escalated to a law enforcement bodies; verbal threats and harassment made to our employees continue to occur."
Some lawmakers are saying it’s time for face to face service while the state is experiencing a double digit jobless rate.
"We know that claimants are frustrated and we are working as expeditiously as possible to process claims and get money in the hands of those who need it," Cisco said.
Pritzker said more efforts are being made to reach out to those who have had difficulty filing for unemployment benefits.
Cisco offered this breakdown of the IDES workforce.
- 492 employees are reporting to their headquarters
- 469 employees are working remotely
- 60 employees are rotating between remote work and reporting to headquarters
The latest numbers showed unemployment was up last month in all the state's metro regions compared to a year ago due to the pandemic. Five regions had record low payrolls.