ILLINOIS — The Illinois Department of Employment Security has extended state unemployment eligibility for an additional 20 weeks.
Illinois is one of 19 states that have extended the time period for people who have lost their jobs to claim benefits.
Analyst Mark Glennon of Wirepoints said many people in Illinois are in dire straits and that Illinois had no choice but to do what it can. Illinois will have to borrow $5 billion from the federal government to pay for the unemployment benefits extension – adding to the state’s financial challenges.
“This is a choice between two evils. If the state did not do this, obviously people would be much worse off and it would damage the economy,” Glennon said.
More than 1.4 million people in Illinois have applied for unemployment claims since March.
Until the extension was declared, the average unemployment insurance coverage in Illinois provides 26 weeks of payments. Since the COVID-19 shutdown in mid-March, thousands of people’s eligibility is due to expire. The 20-week extension is a lifeline, but not enough to keep many afloat.
The checks are “pretty thin,” Glennon said, not enough to pay for housing and basic necessities.
The $600 supplemental unemployment checks from the federal government had been keeping many solvent, Glennon said. Without additional benefits from the federal government, thousands of people could face financial challenges.
Glennon blamed Democrats in Congress for tying the extension of federal unemployment benefits to a host of other items that pad out the Democrats’ $3 trillion stimulus package proposal that President Trump and Republicans have refused to sign.
Glennon said he hopes both Republicans and Democrats will “get more reasonable” about focusing on “the critical need that is at hand.”
Glennon said both parties have complicated the passage of another stimulus relief bill by loading up their versions with things that are unrelated to the pandemic, aid to states and unemployment.
He said he hoped they will pass a smaller bill that will give direct relief to people who have lost their jobs and cannot pay their bills.
Illinois had not taken any action as of Tuesday in response to the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, which offers an additional $300 to unemployment checks for those who qualify, according to a CNBC report and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA had approved 26 states to offer the extra unemployment benefits as of Wednesday.
When asked about the federal program on Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said state is working on it.
“That’s not accurate. It’s just not an accurate question,” the governor said. “We have begun that process and, indeed, it takes a lot of setup on an internal basis for us to move forward with that and so that’s what we’ve been doing.”