Unemployed Illinoisan reports ‘moaning like porn’ on callback about benefits; IDES to investigate

(The Center Square) – The Illinois Department of Employment Security plans to look into a series of bizarre calls on the agency’s behalf to an unemployed Illinoisan who said she heard sounds resembling pornography coming from the line.

To better respond to the millions of monthly calls IDES received each month because of COVID-19 shutdowns and subsequent unemployment, the agency started a call-back system where the jobless would leave their phone number and wait to be called back.

The point of the system was to keep people from sitting on hold for hours, but the state’s social media pages are consistently dogged by people who said they had been waiting weeks or months for a response.

Mundelein resident Kelly Fay-Walters had been receiving unemployment benefits until September, when her recertification wouldn’t go through. She entered her number into the IDES callback line. Two-and-a-half weeks later, she got her call back, but she was helping her son with remote learning. She answered the second callback, but no one was on the other end of the call.

“I waited for an hour, and it just automatically disconnected me,” she said. “I called back and was put at the end of the line.”

When the agency called back last week, it was the same situation, but she could hear someone moving around on the other line, with other unsettling sounds.

“I heard moaning like porn, seriously,” she said of a call from last Wednesday. “Then just rustling around.”

Fay-Walters was able to record a video of the last few minutes of her call. After more than 30 minutes, she said, “Hello,” only to hear someone groan just before the call is disconnected.

A representative with IDES said the department plans to investigate the “unusual” matter after The Center Square brought it to the agency’s attention.

“IDES takes the quality of our callback process seriously, and we would like to investigate what happened here,” said IDES spokesperson Sam Salustro, who also addressed the frustration of callers. “Claimant frustration is deeply felt by IDES. IDES logs all calls, and if a call is disconnected, an IDES employee calls the claimant back within two business days. If a callback rings to voice mail, the claimant does not lose their place in line.”

Fay-Walters eventually got her certification fixed when an IDES representative called her daughter, a gymnastics instructor who had been waiting for payments since August, about her claim.

“IDES agent Tiara was professional and efficient. She took the time to listen and make things right by my family in one call,” Fay-Walters said.

Illinois’ unemployment rate still lags behind the national average, at 10.2% in September.

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