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Answers to unemployment insurance questions

FILE - In this March 17, 2020 file photo, people wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas. About half of all working Americans say they or a member of their household have lost some kind of income due to the coronavirus pandemic, with low-income Americans and those without college degrees especially likely to have lost a job. That's according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  (AP Photo/John Locher)
FILE - In this March 17, 2020 file photo, people wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas. About half of all working Americans say they or a member of their household have lost some kind of income due to the coronavirus pandemic, with low-income Americans and those without college degrees especially likely to have lost a job. That's according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/John Locher)

With businesses around the state having to shut their doors because of the COVID-19 outbreak, more than 178,000 people filed for unemployment insurance benefits during the week ending on March 28, a 50% increase from the previous week.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security has provided information about the process of applying for unemployment insurance and how the newly passed federal stimulus package will affect unemployment benefits.

What COVID-19 means
for unemployment benefits

Unemployment benefits may be available to some individuals whose unemployment is attributable to COVID-19. IDES recently adopted emergency rules to try to make the unemployment insurance system as responsive to the current situation as possible.  

What is unemployment insurance?

In general, unemployment insurance provides temporary income maintenance to individuals who have been separated from employment through no fault of their own and who meet all eligibility requirements, including the requirements that they be able and available for work, register with the state employment service and actively seek work.

What determines if I am able
to work?

An individual is considered able to work if he or she is mentally and physically capable of performing a job for which a labor market exists.

What if I’m temporarily laid off
because the place where I work
temporarily is closed because
of the COVID-19 virus?

An individual temporarily laid off in this situation could qualify for benefits as long as he or she was able and available for and actively seeking work.

Under emergency rules IDES recently adopted, the individual would not have to register with the employment service. He or she would be considered to be actively seeking work as long as the individual was prepared to return to his or her job as soon the employer reopened.

What if I quit my job because
I generally am concerned about the COVID-19 virus?

An individual who leaves work voluntarily without a good reason attributable to the employer is generally disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance. The eligibility of an individual in this situation will depend on whether the facts of his or her case demonstrate the individual had a good reason for quitting and that the reason was attributable to the employer.

An individual generally has a duty to make a reasonable effort to work with his or her employer to resolve whatever issues have caused the individual to consider quitting.

What if I leave work because
my child’s school temporarily
has closed and I feel I have
to stay home with the child?

Ordinarily, an individual who left work to address child care needs would be considered to have left work voluntarily and would generally be disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance, unless the reason for leaving was attributable to the employer.

However, the fact that all schools statewide have temporarily closed in response to the COVID-19 virus presents a unique situation in which it is unlikely a parent whose child cannot stay home alone has a ready alternative to staying home with the child himself/herself.

Under the current circumstances, someone who left work to care for the child could be considered as unemployed through no fault of his her own; in that case, to qualify for unemployment insurance, the individual would still need to meet all other eligibility requirements, including the requirements that the individual be able and available for work, registered with the state employment service and actively seeking work from the confines of his or her home.

The individual would be considered able and available for work if there was some work that he or she could perform from home (e.g., transcribing, data entry, virtual assistant services) and there is a labor market for that work.

How will the newly approved federal stimulus package affect Illinois unemployment benefits?

Once the stimulus package has been implemented in Illinois, individuals receiving unemployment benefits will receive an additional $600 each week above what they would receive in regular unemployment benefits until
July 31.

This will not be retroactively applied to unemployment benefits received in the past.

In many cases, individuals also will be eligible for more weeks of unemployment above the 26 weeks provided under regular unemployment rules. Both of these benefits will be applied automatically if you qualify.

What do I do if I have already
received my maximum benefits?

Some individuals who have received their entire 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits may be eligible for more weeks of benefits under the stimulus package. If you have exhausted your benefits, or you are close to exhausting your benefits, we are finalizing the process to continue benefits under the stimulus package.

Details will be available as soon as we have received further guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor.

If I am self-employed, do I qualify under the new federal
unemployment program?

Under regular unemployment rules, the incomes of self-employed workers, freelancers, and independent contractors are not subject to unemployment taxes, so typically these individuals are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

The stimulus package creates a new, temporary program to help people who lose this type of work as a direct result of the current public health emergency.

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