By the latest reports, over 26 million Americans have now lost their job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Illinois, the number of new unemployment claimants has skyrocketed: according to Week.com, the figures are a shocking 12 times higher than they were this time last year. While unemployment benefits aren’t a cure-all, they can be a lifeline to those struggling to make ends meet.
On March 27, the government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package intended to support those worst hit by the crisis. Among its provisions are an expansion of the unemployment benefits program that:
- Extends the normal benefits collection period by an additional 13 weeks, up to a maximum of 39 weeks
- Pays a supplementary $600 to all UI claimants for up to 6 months
- Expands the eligibility criteria to include self-employed workers and gig workers
As Illinois’s department of labor will only backdate your claim to the date it received your application (rather than your last day of employment), it’s recommended you file your claim as soon as possible after becoming unemployed. If you’re not sure how to start, here’s how.
Are You Eligible?
The first thing to do after losing your job is to check your eligibility for unemployment benefits. Typically, Illinois will only approve claims if:
- You are legally authorized to work in the US
- You’ve lost your job through no fault of your own
- You’re able and available to work and are actively seeking employment
- You earned enough in the last 18 months to meet minimum income requirements
- Further to the adoption of the CARES Act, you’ll no longer be required to demonstrate you’re available or able to work, or are actively seeking employment if you’ve lost your income for any of the following reasons:
- You have COVID-19 or are the primary caregiver to someone with COVID-19
- You’re in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 or are the primary caregiver to someone in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19
- You’ve been laid off due to COVID-19
- You voluntarily left work to care for a child affected by school closures
Applicants who have already exhausted their UI rights may also be eligible for support thanks to the additional 13 weeks of benefits now being paid as part of the CARES Act.
Check What Information Is Required
As part of your application, you’ll be asked for certain details to support your claim. This includes:
- Your SSN
- Your driver’s license or state ID card number
- Your mailing address and a contact number
- Your employment history for the last 18 months, to include the name, address, and telephone number of each employer, dates worked, gross earnings, and reason for leaving
- Your Alien Registration card and number, if you’re not a US citizen
- Form SF-8 and SF50, if you were a federal employee during the previous 18 months
- Form DD 214, if you have served on active military duty within the last 18 months
How To Apply For Unemployment In Illinois
Although applications can usually be accepted at IDES offices, all public offices are currently closed as part of the lockdown. You can therefore chose to file your claim either by phone on (800) 244-5631 or 866-488-4016 (TTY) or online via the IDES website. Due to the unprecedented number of claims currently being filed, the department recommends you file online wherever possible. If you do need to do it via phone, expect long waiting times. As the Chicago Sun Times notes, new applicants are asked to stick to a filing schedule based on their last name.
- Schedule for filing online
- If your last name starts with the letters A through M, file on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
- If your last name starts with N through Z, file on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays.
- If you missed your slot, file on Saturdays.
- Schedule for filing by phone
- If your last name starts A through M, file on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- If your last name starts N through Z, file on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- If you missed your slot, file on Fridays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Once the IDES receive your application, they’ll begin reviewing your eligibility. A Monterey Determination will be issued indicating your expected weekly benefits amount (WBA) while the review is still ongoing: however, this does not mean your application has been accepted. After your application has been reviewed in full, the IDES will send you a Notice of Determination confirming your eligibility and advising of your exact WBA. As soon as your claim has been filed (and even before a decision has been made on your eligibility), you’ll be asked to start verifying your claim weekly. Claims should be made from the first week following your initial application and should be made via the IDES website. If you forget to verify a claim, you might not be able to collect payment for the missed week.
How Much Will I Get?
To calculate your weekly benefit amount, the state will take 47% of your earnings over the two highest-paid quarters in the past 18 months and divide the total by 26. In addition to what the state allows, you’ll also be eligible for a supplementary payment of $600 per week until the end of July. Typically, benefits can be collected for 26 weeks only; however, further to the rollout of the CARES Act, this has been extended to 39 weeks.
Can I Appeal If My Application Is Denied?
In the event IDES declines your application, you have the right to appeal the decision within 30 days of the date of your determination letter by completing the appeals form. Once IDES receives your appeal, they’ll appoint a hearings officer to conduct your hearing at a pre-agreed date and time. If you disagree with the decision of the hearings officer, you can log a further appeal with the Board of Review. Any appeals made after the Board have heard your case will need to be filed in court.