“Well, it started with COVID. I’m a union concrete cutter. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and when COVID struck our small shop, which is only seven guys, a couple of the guys got it. So, we decided that it would be beneficial for us all to take a leave of absence during this wave, which led me to start collecting unemployment.”

“[The Illinois Department of Employment Security] did the pandemic relief program when it was first initiated. And then in March, when it was discontinued, I lost benefits even though they called and told me that I was approved. I waited for almost a month and half to get a call back from them about the status of my benefits. I never received it.”

“I had to call [state Rep.] Martin McLaughlin’s office and ask a representative in the office to contact IDES, and then within a couple of days they called me after McLaughlin’s office contacted them.”

“I was approved for extended benefits and was told to certify. I followed their steps and the following Wednesday my benefits were supposed to be deposited. They never came. No explanation. It’s been over a month since I last received benefits and I am still unemployed. COVID-19 decimated the construction industry.”

“My boss hopes we’re going to be reopening sometime in the next couple of months. But it’s unacceptable. I mean my rent is due. My bills aren’t being paid and I haven’t asked for any financial assistance at all, because unemployment has kept me above water most of the time.”

“We pay into it. That’s what it’s there for. And now I’m just sitting in limbo waiting to hear from unemployment to explain to me why I’m not collecting any money. Even if I wasn’t approved for regular unemployment, I’m still approved for the $300 a week through the stimulus package. So, where’s that money?”

“I receive help from LIHEAP, a federal program to help pay for my utilities. Thank God for that program. I’m going through my county for help with my rent. I’ve never, I mean I’ve never been in this situation before. I’ve always had a job. I have always worked. I always find work, but you know, there’s no work in my industry right now. With the high price of raw materials, construction is dead right now, and there’s no work out there. So, I’m basically borderline homeless and borderline broke.

“It’s so unacceptable that people are sitting, waiting for money and starving. In the meantime, we also face the [second-highest] property taxes in the nation. We’re getting creamed on every aspect in Illinois.”

“Some landlords don’t understand situations, but mine has been very lenient and helps me out when I need it. But like I said, I had to file with my county for rental assistance for this month and for next month’s because I don’t have money to pay for anything. My landlord also had to fill out the paperwork for the assistance. It’s not just one, two, three to go get money or assistance from the government to help with your bills, especially when the government’s telling you, ‘Hey, you can’t work’ and they say they will give you some money and now the government’s not giving me my money and then they’re saying, ‘Okay, well, we don’t know what to tell you.”

“It makes me question, ‘OK, who’s in charge? What’s going on?’ That’s the problem. No one’s in charge, though. No one knows, exactly.”

“I’m not in a dire need but I can only imagine what it would be like to have a family of three or four kids or be a single mother waiting for help. And it’s just unacceptable and nobody’s talking about it. Nobody’s talking about any of that.”

“I don’t understand why somebody can’t just give me a phone call back. I don’t understand why I have five letters, three of them stating that I am approved for unemployment benefits and then I get a letter saying, ‘You might not be eligible.’ And they’re saying, ‘might not,’ not that, ‘I’m not eligible,’ but I ‘might not’ be.”

“We had to pay into the unemployment for a reason, and that’s what it’s there for, and all our federal grants and all this money that was given to Illinois to specifically help the unemployed.”

“Enough is enough. We aren’t helping the little guys that are sitting here struggling, just to keep their doors open or their families fed. Sooner or later, people are going to push back, whether it’s local, or city or state elections. It’s a brutal perfect storm right now, and they’re not helping out people who need it most.”

“They’ve had a year now to figure this out. It’s unacceptable.”

Adam Harjung
Concrete cutter
Fox River Grove, Illinois