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Pritzker outlines efforts to expand access and eligibility to unemployment benefits

Staff Report

CHICAGO – Building on measures designed to address the unprecedented economic challenges facing Illinois families during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker provided an update on the state’s efforts to expand access and eligibility to unemployment insurance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the United States economy, leading to an unprecedented number of unemployment claims. Through the five weeks from March 1 to April 4, Illinois received 513,173 initial unemployment claims. That is greater than the total number of initial claims for the entirety of 2019 (489,831) and five times greater than the claims filed in the first five weeks of the 2008 great recession.

“The challenges workers and families are facing today is something my whole administration thinks about each day as we are simultaneously attempting to fend off the health consequences of coronavirus,” Pritzker said. “We are working around the clock at all levels to provide unemployment benefits to the unprecedented number of Illinoisans who have lost their jobs to the spread of COVID-19. I will continue to do everything in my power to get our residents the support they need to get through this crisis.”

The administration moved swiftly to increase capacity on the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) website and ramp up efforts at the IDES call center to meet the unparalleled number of unemployment claims. Since March 1, the IDES website has fielded over 6.5 million sessions and the IDES call center has processed thousands of calls per day

To meet the needs of applicants and claimants, the administration and IDES overhauled the IDES website infrastructure, expanded the call center capacity and secured private partnerships to expand capacity in its existing systems and implementation of new programs

Recognizing the immense financial challenges facing working families during this time, the administration filed emergency rules to ease eligibility requirements, waived the waiting week for claimants, acted quickly to implement Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
FPUC provides an additional $600 each week in 100% federally funded benefits to anyone entitled to regular state unemployment benefits. FPUC is available for weeks beginning on or after March 29, 2020 and continuing through the week ending July 25, 2020.

The administration acted immediately to implement this federal program and provide much needed resources to Illinois residents. As a result, IDES began disbursing funds through this program, starting the week of April 5, 2020, which was the first week the federal legislation allowed FPUC to be paid. From March 29, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020, benefits will be applied automatically to claimants who qualify

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

PUA provides 100% federally funded unemployment benefits for individuals who are unemployed for specified COVID-19-related reasons and are not covered through other avenues in the unemployment insurance program, including self-employed sole proprietors and independent contractors. IDES is contracting with Deloitte to implement and maintain a web-based solution for PUA as quickly as possible. IDES will have this program fully implemented by the week of May 11.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
PEUC Provides up to 13 weeks’ worth of 100 percent federally funded benefits to individuals who have exhausted their rights to regular state unemployment benefits of up to 26 weeks in Illinois. PEUC is potentially available for weeks beginning on or after March 29, 2020 and continuing through the week ending December 26, 2020. PEUC will be retroactive once implemented. IDES received USDOL guidelines on April 10 and expects to have the program fully implemented the week of April 20.

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