Decrease in state unemployment rate triggered federal benefit cutoff for someBy Sarah Mansur Capitol News Illinois — March 4, 2021
SPRINGFIELD — Benefits for some unemployed state residents provided under an aid program targeting mostly self-employed and gig workers will be capped at 50 weeks instead of 57, the state announced Wednesday, March 3.
The shortened period for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program was triggered by a decline in the state’s unemployment rate.
The PUA program, which was first established by Congress last March, offers benefits to independent contractors, self-employed individuals, gig workers and others not covered by traditional state unemployment insurance.
After Congress renewed the program in December, eligible individuals could receive up to 57 weeks of PUA benefits. The law passed in December, the Continued Assistance Act, also extended regular state unemployment insurance benefits by seven weeks.
Both those seven-week benefit extensions have ended, according to a state news release. This means individuals eligible for PUA will receive up to 50 weeks of benefits, and those eligible for extended regular state unemployment insurance benefits will receive up to 13 weeks of benefits.
Roughly 40,000 individuals have been notified that they have exhausted their 50 weeks of PUA, according to Rebecca Cisco, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
“IDES will continue to notify PUA claimants as they approach the 50 week limit. And, of course, the Department is closely monitoring activity at the federal level in the event new legislation includes extensions or changes to the PUA program,” Cisco wrote in an email.
Individuals who qualify for PUA but have not yet received some of their benefits will only be eligible for benefits through April 10, Acting IDES Director Kristin Richards said in response to a question during a virtual joint committee hearing March 3.
Richards said the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that the average unemployment rate for October, November and December fell below 8 percent.
“The federal government made a determination based on unemployment data from the state of Illinois, over a three-month average,” Richards said. “They evaluate all this data and arrive at a conclusion. And that conclusion was that we were triggering off this high unemployment period.”
Under federal law, states are only able to access two seven-week extensions if the state is in a so-called “high unemployment period.” An IDES spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarification on what constituted a high unemployment period.
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in Illinois for October, November, and December were 7.5 percent, 7.6 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, according to Department of Labor data.
The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for October, November, and December were 8.1 percent, 8.1 percent and 8 percent, respectively.