With tens of thousands of Illinoisans out of work, experts warn that people applying for unemployment benefits need to be patient.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an emergency order last week that shuttered all non-essential businesses statewide to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois. The move was a broad-stroke effort to tamp down the spread of the virus, according to public health experts. It has also exposed tens of thousands of Illinoisans to something they may have never experienced before: Applying for unemployment benefits.
For those who have been laid off, perhaps the most important piece of advice is to stay calm.
“I know it’s not a very easy thing to do and people are probably very tired of hearing that,” said Julie Courtney, director of McHenry County Workforce Network.
Courtney’s public entity administers the federal Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act.
Step one, she said, is to properly file for unemployment.
“You can visit the state website, ides.illinois.gov, or you can call their customer service center and get help that way,” she said.
Typically, the state will confirm receipt of the application, later approving it, and then depositing an unemployment check into the person’s account or sending them a check. Courtney said this process wasn’t immediate and can take a week.
Typically, the person has to be able and actively seeking other employment to receive unemployment benefits, but IDES changed its rules to allow for benefits to be paid as long as the worker is ready to return to the position they were laid off from as soon as the employer calls back.
For those not expecting a callback, this is when the job hunt begins. Courtney said Illinoisworknet.com is one state resource for job hunters. It also has a section to connect workers to one of the high-demand positions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.