Unemployment claims are reaching record highs, taxing each state’s digital systems like never before. But in at least one state, a laggy site or unreachable offices aren’t the only issues that resident are facing while trying to file for benefits.
As first reported by the Illinois news affiliate WREX, the state’s new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system—or PUA, for short—suffered a glitch that left sensitive details about newly unemployed individuals on the open web.
According to a statement from Illinois House Rep. Terri Bryant, authorities caught wind of the breach on Friday after “a concerned constituent” tipped them off that they’d been privy to the personal intel for “thousands” of unemployment applicants that’ve used the portal, which came on a spreadsheet that included not only their names, but also their home addresses and Social Security numbers.
“As of now, the only official response I have received from the Governor’s office has been an email reply to my letter that said, ‘Thank you Representative. We are aware and fixing the problem,’” Bryant added.
The PUA portal was initially set up last week for the state’s gig workers and independent contractors, who might’ve had difficulty applying for unemployment and accessing funds under the state’s previous system. Thus far, more than 50,000 unemployment claims have been filed through the system, which is only just a drop in the bucket compared to the gig workers nationwide. Across the country, these sorts of contractors are reporting slashed incomes, with a recent report finding nearly 70% of those surveyed reporting having no income currently.
The PUA portal was a result of the more than $20 million in private contracts arranged between state governor JB Pritzker and the private consulting firm Deloitte in order to buffer the state’s woefully overtaxed unemployment system. For the portal alone, Deloitte received a whopping $9.5 million, according to public records obtained by WBEZ.
Byrant explained that she was told by the Pritzker administration that the inadvertent leak was fixed within the hour. When we accessed the portal ourselves to double check if this data could still be accessed, it appeared that, indeed, the leak was fixed. But for a portal worth more than $9 million, you’d hope that these issues would be ironed out before being rolled out to tens of millions of already periled workers.