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Employment services to close Grayslake office

The Illinois Department Employment Security office campus College Lake County Grayslake will be closed later this year due budget cuts

The Illinois Department of Employment Security office on the campus of the College of Lake County in Grayslake will be closed later this year due to budget cuts, an expiring lease and an effort to have more unemployment services conducted via telephone or the Internet. | Dan Moran/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 1, 2014 3:32AM

In part of an ongoing effort to have more unemployment claims handled electronically, the Illinois Department of Employment Services (IDES) will close its office on the College of Lake County campus in Grayslake before its lease at the site runs out this year, possibly as early as this spring.

IDES spokesman Greg Rivara said on Thursday, Jan. 30, that the Grayslake office will be consolidated with the Lake County Job Center at 1 N. Genesee St. in Waukegan, but the focus will shift away from having unemployment claims and questions addressed through direct interaction with employees.

“We’re moving toward a model that delivers unemployment services through the Internet and telephone and delivers employment services face to face,” said Rivara, adding that more than 30 IDES offices were consolidated or closed in 2013.

“This is also an attempt by us to invest in people rather than buildings. Our federal funds have been cut, and we have to live within our means,” Rivara said. “We closed 15 offices in 2013, with layoffs.”

Employees in the Grayslake office were informed of the looming closure earlier this month, and Rivara said those workers will be assigned to other offices in the IDES system, depending on the type of work they do.

The IDES office at 900 Lancer Lane opened in 1999 after the agency closed a Waukegan facility at 221 N. Genesee the previous year. It shares space with such uses as an Illinois Department of Health and Human Services Welfare to Work program and the Lake County Education to Careers Partnership.

Also in the one-story brick building are offices for the Lake County Health Department’s Vocational Services and the Lake County Regional Office of Education, and CLC operates its Career and Placement Services next door to the IDES space.

While a line of people seeking IDES services stretched down an adjoining hallway late Thursday morning, Rivara said the agency launched a statewide effort last summer “to move people away from claims on paper,” which had been utilized by about 50 percent of applicants as 2013 began.

Rivara said the number of applicants using either the Internet or telephone to file their claims is now up to 90 percent, adding that “the reason that Internet and telephone work best for unemployment claims is the process works the same regardless of where you live. Face-to-face works better for employment (searches) because it’s geared to the workforce needs in that area.”

Chris “Brotha” Blanks of the Waukegan-based Black Abolitionist Movement for the Mind expressed concern that local unemployment applicants will have such things as follow-up questions properly addressed without an office to visit. He used his own experience as a construction worker seeking unemployment claims between projects as an example.

“Waukegan will not be a full-service location where you can talk to someone (about an unemployment claim),” Blanks said. “One of the challenges that is going on now is that you can come out to Grayslake any morning and there is a line they have that is unbelievable. The staff that they have is overworked.”

According to Rivara, the IDES lease in Grayslake runs through the end of the year, but there is no firm date when the office will be vacated. Part of the equation is when other facilities that will welcome Grayslake employees will have their sites set up to accommodate them.

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