Federal Unemployment Insurance Enhancements

This webpage was last updated on April 14, 2020

In March, Senator Duckworth voted for and Congress passed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which established new federal unemployment insurance (UI) enhancements to support Illinois workers who lose their job or are furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Important Note: UI is an insurance program administered by states and territories, with oversight from the Federal Government and a mix of state and federal funding (there are also purely federal UI programs, but this FAQ will focus on the tradition, state-run UI benefits most individuals will apply to)

In Illinois, workers 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 UI Enhancements in the CARES Act

Who is eligible for the enhanced unemployment insurance under the CARES Act?
The CARES Act that Senator Duckworth voted for significantly expands UI eligibility to workers who are laid off or furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but may not otherwise be eligible for UI. This expansion includes self-employed workers and independent contractors, such as those employed within the “gig economy,” and those with a traditionally insufficient earnings history. If you are eligible under the traditional state program, the CARES Act provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits, with an extra $600 in payments through July 31, 2020.

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

$471

Married w/o Children

$561

Married w/ Children

$648

As a result of the legislation Senator Duckworth helped pass, individuals receiving UI benefits between now and July 31, 2020 will receive an additional $600 per week on top of their normal State-level UI benefits. No one will earn less than $600 per week through the end of July.

I lost my job months ago. Am I still eligible?
Yes, the UI enhancements under the CARES Act that Senator Duckworth voted for run through the end of the year, and they feature retroactive eligibility dating back to January 27, 2020. However, individuals are only eligible for the extra $600 per week moving forward from the law’s date of enactment – March 27, 2020.

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 handbook – “What Every Worker Should Know About Unemployment Insurance” that describes all the information you’ll need to apply. 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.

NOTE: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, new claims for benefits have exceeded capacity for many state unemployment insurance programs. IDES is currently working to expand its claims processing, however the historic surge in filing may result in waiting times right now. 

What if I’ve already exhausted my 26 weeks of Illinois unemployment insurance benefits?
The CARES Act provides federal funding for an additional 13 weeks of UI benefits for those participating in a traditional state program who have exhausted their benefits. That means if you work in Illinois, you now have access to up to 39 weeks of UI benefits. Participants would still be eligible for the extra $600 per week in payments, provided they receive UI benefits between now and July 31, 2020. 

What if I don’t qualify for unemployment insurance in Illinois?
If you have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and you are in a category that typically does not qualify for state UI benefits (such as independent contractors, self-employed workers or those with an insufficient earnings history), you may still be eligible for up to 39 weeks of benefits through the CARES Act’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The payment would still be based on the Illinois calculation of benefits, plus $600 through the end of July.

How long are the CARES Act’s enhancements to unemployment insurance available?
The $600 is additional weekly payments run through the end of July. The extension of the number of weeks workers are eligible for (to a maximum of 39 weeks) is available through December 31, 2020.

Will my unemployment insurance benefit be taxed?
Yes, UI payments are considered taxable for Federal income tax purposes.