Super Happy Fun Times with IDES

I hate the unemployment office.

It is filled with individuals at home at a Jeff Foxworthy concert – all flannel shirts, baseball caps and dirty jeans. They smell of week old sweat and urine. Some have been here before. They know what to do, how to wait, how to take care of not being employed. It is a hive of the lazy and the unmotivated.

The office is clean, bright and cheerful, filled with awful Microsoft Word-designed pamphlets, ten year-old books and magazines about how to create a resume, dress for an interview, and, get this, how to look for a job using the internet. Cutting-edge stuff. The employees are dour, unhappy, unenthusiastic, tired and overworked. They make the DMV workers I’ve encountered look like Disney employees by comparison. A 50 year-old, balding black man shouts out numbers. People shuffle from their plastic chairs to face the inquisitor. I’ve already done this dance. It is as demeaning a walk of shame as invented by civilized people.

When I applied for benefits I had a choice between receiving an unemployment debit card or having the benefit direct deposited into my account. I elected for direct deposit and provided a void check with my application and information. Of course, I received a “Look at me. I’m unemployed!” debit card which I didn’t want. If I try and call the toll free number regarding assistance, it wants me to activate the card and I don’t want to do that. Of course, I could just take the fucking debit card and unload the contents into my checking account, but I shouldn’t have to because I damn-well requested direct deposit.

Last week, I received paperwork about my benefits: when to call to certify and how much I was going to receive. I made my call and everything seemed fine, even though I didn’t know when I was supposed to receive my benefit either as a direct deposit or on the damn debit card. I was doing what I was supposed to do and maintaining a work search information sheet because in big scary letters they say, FAILURE TO DO SO MAY RESULT IN DENIAL OF BENEFITS. I’m guessing maybe the guys in flannel shirts wanna stay home and watch Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? instead of actually, you know, look for a job.

Earlier this week, I received a nearly unreadable form letter from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (because the Unemployment Office is sooo politically incorrect). The letter started out as such:

A question has been raised regarding your eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits for the period beginning 12-21-2008. To resolve this question, it will be necessary for you to be interviewed and to supply information regarding your receipt of vacation payment in connection with a separation or layoff.

That seems straightforward, although needlessly wordy. It appears a “question” has been raised whether or not I received vacation payment. I have my earnings statement from my last paycheck. It shows, quite clearly, I was paid Regular, Float Holiday and Vacation pay. I should be able to clear this up easily, but as I keep reading I’m increasingly confused:

This interview is requested because A QUESTION CONCERNING YOUR SEPERATION FROM EMPLOYMENT HAS BEEN RAISED. YOUR INTERVIEW WILL BE WITH MR. PARKER AT PHONE EXT. 380. PLEASE PROVIDE A WORK SEARCH RECORD FORM TO THIS OFFICE… At the time of your interview, you should be prepared to present any information you have regarding your case.

Now this reads over-dramatic and scary. First, they misspelled “SEPARATION” with an “e” instead of an “a.” Secondly, I’m unsure if they are using all-caps because they are yelling at me, because the cut and paste form letter added the new info in all-caps or because they are trying to get my attention.

I have a scheduled phone interview and I don’t understand the question. Is the question simply whether or not I received my vacation pay? The first sentence of the letter says there’s a question about vacation pay and then four sentences later they are seemingly yelling at me about the “QUESTION CONCERNING YOUR SEPERATION FROM EMPLOYMENT.” How can I provide a work search record form over the phone? I’m told to prepare any information regarding my case, but I don’t know what they need?

Down further in the letter, after they discuss the interview schedule, making sure the phone number is correct and would you like to have an in-person interview instead, they make a big important point:

This notice is for your protection and is not a denial of benefits. A final determination regarding your eligibility for benefits will not be made until after you have had an opportunity to discuss this matter with our office.

This does not fill me with enthusiasm or hope. So, I called the Claims Adjudicator (his name and number were right there) with my questions. After trying many times and simply getting a busy signal, I get him on the line. This is how it goes:

Employment Office: Employment, Parker
Me: Am I speaking with Mr. Parker?
Employment Office: Yes
Me: Mr. Parker, I received information regarding my eligibility for unemployment benefits and I’m not sure what you need.
Employment Office: Do you have a interview scheduled? When’s your interview?
Me: It’s on 1-15, but I’m not sure about what this is –
Employment Office: I don’t have your file in front of me. It’s clear on the other side of the building.
Me: I understand.
Employment Office: Did you quit or were your fired?
Me: No, my job was eliminated.
Employment Office: Discharged. I will call you on the date and take your statement.
Me: I didn’t realize you needed my statement
Employment Office: I’ll get your statement and your former employer’s statement. I’m on a call every 15 minutes.
Me: I understand. I don’t know what you need –
Employment Office: We can discuss it during your interview.
Me: I understand that, but –

I hate the unemployment office.