Some Illinois employers report problems bringing employees back, disputing unemployment claims

Some Illinois employers report problems bringing employees back, disputing unemployment claims

ILLINOIS (IRN) — Part of the process of certifying unemployment benefits includes Illinois employers appealing claims, but more than a year into the pandemic one employer says that’s not happening. More than a year into the pandemic, with more open and warmer months ahead, employers are having problems finding employees to come back to work. Some blame generous unemployment benefits.

More than 15,000 Illinoisans filed for additional unemployment benefits last week. That’s nearly 1,000 more that filed for the expanded traditional benefits than the week before. More than 2,200 independent contractors also applied for benefits, a decrease of around 200 from the week before. In total, the state has nearly 430,000 people getting benefits, more than 40,000 than the week before.

State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said every restaurant owner he talks says there’s an employee shortage. At the beginning of the pandemic, and following government orders prohibiting indoor dining and other services, Karen Conn with Conn’s Hospitality Groups said she had to lay off more than 75 people from all of their properties. Since then, they’ve brought back around half. Jay Shanle is corporate administrator for Conn’s Hospitality Group. He said he doubles up interviews knowing many won’t show. And he’s offering increased benefits.

“Full time, part-time, I would take anyone that would come into the door and would want to work and I would work around them,” Shanle said. “And even with those concessions, I am not finding any candidates whatsoever.”

Despite paying above minimum wage and offering health and retirement benefits, Conn said that doesn’t compare to enhanced and sustained unemployment benefits.

“In conjunction to all the stimulus checks that have gone out in the last six months, and the discussion of a fourth-round potentially going out, what is the incentive to actually work for a living,” she said.

Unemployment benefits have been enhanced and extended through Sept. 6. The Illinois Department of Employment Security’ website provides a process for employers to file claims of “refusal to return to work.”

“This information will assist IDES in making our determination of benefit eligibility,” according to the agency’s website. “Generally, an individual must show good cause for refusing a bona fide, suitable offer of work.”

Before the pandemic, Conn said the online process worked. Now, they have to wait months.

“It takes us anywhere from three-to-four months, depending on how quickly that mail gets here because it’s all paper-related now, that we can say ‘doggonit, these people are still drawing against us,’” Conn said.

She worried employers will be stuck with covering increased unemployment costs as employers pay unemployment insurance. State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said other employers are in the same position, and it’s unacceptable.

“There’s just a total lack of communication in regards to the IDES with the employer and I’ve been asking those questions,” Murphy said.

Messages seeking comment from IDES were not returned.

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