Clients brace for changes at Rock Island unemployment office

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There are big changes on the way for the Illinois Department of Employment Security Office in Rock Island.

Clients will no longer be able to file for unemployment benefits in person as of September 2. Ironically, it's Labor Day.

It's the latest twist for a state already dealing with the second worst unemployment rate in the nation.

Clients are being directed to a phone bank or the internet to file their claims. That could make a difficult process even more complicated.

Bill Nanson talked to an Illinois employee about filing for unemployment on Monday. Next Monday, he'll need to use the internet or an 800 number.

"It's going to be difficult, and I'm not happy with it," Nanson said. "I imagine a lot of other people are going to be really upset with such changes."

No jobs will be lost at the Rock Island office, but some of the two dozen staffers will focus on a phone center. IDES blames federal funding cuts for the changes.

"I'm not buying the money thing," said AFSCME Local 2615 President Carlene Erno. "It's an easy way to cut access."

Erno is advocating for those without a voice, the unemployed. She also says that IDES is making changes without adequate notice.

"I'm sick and tired of those people doing it," she continued. "It's creating a divide between the rich and the poor."

People like Rodrigo Torres. He will need to travel to Sterling or Peoria for in-person service with his unemployment claim.

"I feel pretty sad," he said. "That's a big issue for a lot of people."

While an IDES spokesman says that only about 10% of claims are still filed on paper, the move seems destined to hurt those who need help the most. Losing that one-on-one service will be a major hardship.

"Little by little, people are getting the life sucked out of them because you can't get services," Erno said.

IDES says it's going to focus on creating jobs at the Rock Island location. Clients will still be able to get hands-on help with that.

It's not good enough for Nanson, He depends on the service.

"I wish some of them would actually see what happens before they make a decision like this," he said. "It doesn't benefit those of us who need the help."

In-person help that will be harder to come by in Rock Island.

(editor's note:  A release issued Tuesday, August 27, 2013 on behalf of IDES said, "Employment services will remain at the current 500 42nd Street location but move around the corner to Suite 4 and share space with the Rock Island Partners in Job Training and Placement Board beginning Sept 3." 

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