The state will begin processing claims for independent contractors and gig workers next week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced during his daily coronavirus press briefing on Thursday.
As unemployment claims in the state of Illinois reach historic numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pritzker said those not eligible for traditional benefits will soon see relief as the state plans to begin processing pandemic unemployment assistance, or PUA, claims starting Monday.
During the press briefing, Pritzker detailed the process for applying for PUA benefits and encouraged those looking to apply to get a jump start.
“The federal government requires that workers who believe they may be eligible for the PUA program must first apply for regular unemployment insurance, likely getting denied, before applying for benefits under PUA,” Pritzker explained. “That denial for regular unemployment benefits is a mandatory first step in determining PUA eligibility. But there’s no need to wait until Monday to take that step.”
Pritzker adds getting a head start is also beneficial depending on the way claimants choose to receive benefits: either through direct deposit or a preloaded debit card.
“For those who choose the debit card, which can take up to one or two weeks to arrive in the mail – that card will be mailed out after you finish filing for regular unemployment even if you’re denied,” Pritzker said. “If you’re a worker who qualifies for PUA, your card could already be on the way to you before you even open the PUA application portal on Monday.”
According to Pritzker, claimants can receive up to 39 weeks of benefits backdated to the first week of unemployment under the new program.
As the IDES prepares to handle both the growing number of standard unemployment claims as well as additional PUA claims, Pritzker detailed the effort the state has made in response to technical issues residents have reported while attempting to file for benefits.
“For those reaching out over the phone, our new call center is now up and running. And we continue to scale it up with 200 additional agents taking calls by next week,” Pritzker said.
In addition to the new call center, Pritzker said other measures, like improving the IDES’s computer system and adding a chatbot to the website has paid off.
“As a result of these improvements, IDES is now paying out unemployment benefits to 99.9% of clean claims in a timely manner. And the majority of these claimants, approximately 75%, receive benefits within two weeks of filing.”
Those in need of assistance with unemployment benefits are encouraged to visit IDES.Illinois.gov.