Q & A UPDATE
Q: Is there any financial relief being offered for an individual who is still working, but has had their hours cut in half due to COVID-19? Are they eligible to apply for unemployment for hours they have lost?
A: Anyone who is unemployed or underemployed should file for unemployment and IDES will determine eligibility. If an individual’s earnings are less than their weekly benefit amount, they may qualify for unemployment benefits, though the benefits may be reduced.
Q: Does an individual need to be providing proof of job search?
A: Every 2 weeks claimants must certify that they were able to work and actively sought work during the prior two weeks. They are also required to register with Illinois Job link, keep a “Job Search” record and provide a copy if requested.
At the start of the COVID crisis, IDES adopted emergency rules suspending the requirement that a claimant register with Illinois Job Link if their unemployment is due to a temporary lay-off resulting from COVID-19. To meet the A&A requirements, someone temporarily laid off due to COVID just has to be ready to return to work.
Q: Is the individual’s approval of unemployment benefits dependent on their employer filling something out or being reachable when IDES calls?
A: When a claim is filed, IDES sends the employer a notice of the claim, so they are informed of the filing. If the employer disagrees with the reason for separation identified by the claimant, wants to question the employer’s chargeability status, or if they believe the claimant is still employed, it is their decision whether to respond or protest the claim. Whether they respond, chose not to respond, or are unreachable during the adjudication process, IDES makes a determination of the claimant’s eligibility based on the available data and information, including reaching out to the claimant at the scheduled interview time. Not all eligibility issues require employer input.
Q: What should an individual do if they apply for unemployment on the IDES website, and it says that the individual’s information cannot be validated?
A: Call the IDES claimant call center at (800) 244-5631.
Q: Is there an option available for Spanish speaking individuals who are applying for unemployment benefits?
A: Yes. The claim application is also in Spanish.
Q: If someone were successful in filing their unemployment application, when can they expect to receive their first check?
A: Assuming eligibility, approximately two to three weeks after filing. Unemployment benefits are paid for weeks of unemployment, which typically occur after someone files for unemployment. So normally, after filing a claim for benefits, two weeks must pass before the individual can certify for their unemployment during those two weeks. After certifying, the individual receives payment within one to two business days.
Q: Can an individual find out how much they are expected to receive in unemployment benefits?
A: An individual that files for unemployment insurance benefits will receive a “UI Finding” from IDES, which will state the individual’s weekly benefit amount, if any. Before applying for benefits or receiving a UI Finding, it is possible for an individual to view a “Table of Weekly Benefit Amounts” on the IDES website. This would require the individual to know their reported wages during each quarter of their base period.
Rather than guess or estimate the wages that were reported, if an individual is unemployed or underemployed, they should file a claim. After filing the claim, IDES will tell the individual the exact amount of benefits the individual is entitled to receive, if any.
Q: Will unemployment benefits for individuals be applied retroactively?
A: Yes, up to the limits allowed by federal law.
PUA claims will be backdated to the week they became eligible, which is typically the individual’s first week of unemployment, but no earlier than February 2, 2020, and will continue for as long as the individual’s remains unemployed as a result of COVID-19, but no later than the week ending December 26, 2020.
The first week for which FPUC may be paid is the week beginning March 29, 2020. The last week that FPUC may be paid is the week ending July 25, 2020.
FEDERAL PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION ($600 INCREASE)
Q: Will the additional $600 be added to a calculated percentage of unemployment, bringing the total amount of benefits to 100% of an employee’s wage earnings?
A: The $600 federal supplemental is added on top of the claimant’s weekly benefit amount. The sum may be less than the employee’s wage earnings. If a claimant’s weekly benefit amount is $400, they will be receiving, every two weeks, a payment in the amount of $2,000
Q: Once an individual’s application is processed and they begin receiving their unemployment benefits, will they also be receiving the additional $600 at the same time?
A: Yes. Under federal law, anyone eligible for at least a $1 weekly benefit amount will be eligible for the $600 plus up. The first week for which FPUC may be paid is the week beginning March 29, 2020; and the last week that FPUC may be paid is the week ending July 25, 2020.
Q: Who is eligible for the additional $600?
A: Anyone who receives at least $1 of state or federal unemployment benefits for a week, during the period from March 29, 2020 through July 25, 2020.
Q: If an individual was receiving unemployment insurance before COVID-19, do they qualify for additional weeks of insurance?
A: They may be eligible for up to 26 additional weeks of unemployment on the federal extension programs (PEUC and PUA). If their benefit year ends and the federal programs are no longer in effect, they may qualify for another benefit year.
Q: Is IDES planning on implementing the expansion of the duration of benefits and additional 13 weeks for those who have exhausted them?
A: The federal PEUC will provide up to 13 additional weeks. PUA will provide an additional 13 weeks on top of individuals who were eligible for underlying regular UI and PEUC. Individuals who were not eligible for those programs, e.g., independent contractors and sole proprietors, are potentially eligible for up to 39 weeks of 100% federally funded benefits.
Q: Has IDES implemented the increased weeks the federal government is giving unemployment? If not, is there a timeline?
A: First payments under this program are expected the week of April 20.
IDES STAFFING AND PERFORMANCE
Q: Is the system still being worked on? If so, when is it expected to be fixed? Is it accepting applications at a higher capacity?
A: IDES is constantly monitoring and improving the performance and functions of its IT systems and will continue to do so as the demand for unemployment benefit claims and services remains high due to COVID-19. While IDES has made significant improvements since the start of this crisis and is much more adept at accepting claims at a higher capacity, IDES’s goal is always to make adjustments as quickly as they are needed due to the unprecedented volume of claims being filed.
Q: What is the status of implementing the “enhanced” unemployment benefits?
A: Listed below are steps taken:
• FPUC: Fully implemented. Benefits paid for the first week available under federal law. • PEUC: In progress. IDES expects to begin paying PEUC the week of April 20. • PUA: In progress. IDES expects to begin paying PUA by May 11. All unemployed or underemployed individuals should file today.
Q: Have additional staff been hired to address the issues on the IDES website?
A: The IDES website and other IT matters are managed by DoIT, which has fully backed the many ongoing IT projects being undertaking by the agency right now to improve and streamline the capabilities of the website.
Q: Is IDES staff working at full capacity, or are some off because of COVID-19?
A: IDES’s claims adjudicators are working at full capacity. Some employees are working from home.
Q: Is there a rotation schedule at IDES, allowing for less days to be worked?
A: IDES’s claims adjudicators are working at full capacity.
Q: Is IDES staff working from home? If so, is their IT capacity lagging?
A: Some employees are currently working from home. IDES is working with DoIT to send everyone else home, except certain individuals required to be on-site (e.g., print and mailing services).