Federal Unemployment Insurance Enhancements

This page will be updated continuously to reflect the most recent information. This page was last updated on May 20, 2021.

The American Rescue Plan provides unemployed workers with enhanced unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021.  This includes additional payments of $300 per week for beneficiaries through that time.  The number of total weeks a recipient may receive unemployment benefits has also been increased to 79 weeks. 

For those with incomes less than $150,000 in 2020, the first $10,200 of unemployment insurance benefits will not be taxed.  

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act established new federal unemployment insurance (UI) enhancements to support Illinois workers who lose their job or are furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The December 2020 COVID-19 relief law further extended or modified several of these key provisions.

Important Note: In Illinois, workers traditionally have access to up to 26 weeks of UI benefits. The State of Illinois calculates benefit levels, and the maximum benefit available is dependent on several factors, including your marital status and if you have children. Please also note that your UI benefits are based on where you work, not where you live. For Illinoisans to qualify for Illinois UI benefits, they must have worked in the state within the last 18 months.

FAQ on Current, Federal UI Enhancements

Who is eligible for the enhanced unemployment insurance under the CARES Act?
In addition to those workers who qualified for UI benefits prior to COVID-19, other individuals who are laid off or furloughed may be eligible for benefits as a result of the laws noted above. The CARES Act expanded UI eligibility to self-employed workers and independent contractors, such as those employed within the “gig economy,” and those with a traditionally insufficient earnings history.

How much will I receive from unemployment insurance?
Each state has its own calculation for UI benefits. In Illinois specifically, the maximum benefit available is dependent on several factors, including your earnings history, your marital status and if you have children. Below is a breakdown of the maximum benefit available to Illinois workers, though it is important to note that your UI benefits may fall below this topline threshold:

Worker Status

Maximum UI Benefit

Single w/o Children


Married w/o Children


Married w/ Children


As a result of the December 2020 COVID-19 relief law, individuals who receive UI benefits between December 31, 2020 and March 14, 2021 will receive an additional $300 per week on top of their normal State-level UI benefits.

I lost my job months ago. Am I still eligible?
Yes, you may still be able to qualify for back payment of UI benefits starting on, or after, January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020 if you lost your job as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

I haven’t lost my job, but my hours have been significantly reduced. Can I still receive unemployment insurance?
Yes. In Illinois, you are eligible for UI if you are out of work or are no longer working full time because full time work is not available. 

How do I apply for unemployment insurance?
Illinoisans can file for unemployment insurance with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) at www.ides.illinois.gov. IDES also has a series of FAQ pages that can be accessed here.

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call IDES’s TTY service – Illinois Relay – at 1-866-488-4016.

What if I’ve already exhausted my 26 weeks of Illinois unemployment insurance benefits?
The CARES Act provided federal funding for an additional 13 weeks of UI benefits for those participating in a traditional state program who have exhausted their benefits, and the recent COVID-relief law provided funding for an additional 11 weeks. That means if you work in Illinois, you now have access to up to 50 weeks of UI benefits.

I am employed within the “gig economy.” Why was I denied unemployment? 
The PUA program has been established for individuals who are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work for reasons attributable to COVID-19 and not covered by the state’s regular UI program. To establish eligibility under the PUA program, the claimant will have to demonstrate he/she is not eligible under the regular UI program. Applying for and being denied benefits under the regular UI program can help establish eligibility under the PUA program. 

Will my unemployment insurance benefit be taxed? 
Yes, UI payments are considered taxable for Federal income tax purposes. As a result of the American Rescue Plan, most households will not be taxed at the Federal level for the first $10,200 in earnings from unemployment compensation. That benefit is available to households with earnings below $150,000 in 2020. 

If eligible, exclude up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation paid to you in 2020 (and up to another $10,200 of unemployment compensation paid to your spouse if you're married and file a joint tax return). You don't have to pay tax on unemployment compensation that is excluded from your gross income. 

Because the change occurred after some filed their taxes, the IRS will take steps to make the appropriate change to their return, which may result in a refund. The first refunds are expected to be made in May and will continue into the summer. There is no need for taxpayers to file an amended return unless the calculations make the taxpayer newly eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on the original tax return. More information can be found here.  

I received benefits under the PUA program and was charged with an overpayment. Is it possible to waive an overpayment? 
The federal Continued Assistance Act, signed into law on December 27, 2020, provides states the ability to waive recovery of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) overpayments in the event the overpayments were established through no fault of the claimant; and the recovery of the overpayment would be against “equity and good conscience.” If an overpayment was established on your PUA claim, you will receive a Request for Waiver of Recovery of PUA Overpayment Questionnaire by email or mail, depending on your PUA correspondence preference. To be considered for a waiver, you must complete and return the questionnaire in full by providing clear, detailed responses to each question. More information can be found here.