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Do I Qualify for Unemployment in Illinois?

Posted on April 8, 2020 in Employment Law

Losing your job can lead to significant consequences, putting you and your family at serious financial risk. Fortunately, the state of Illinois provides unemployment benefits for individuals while they are searching for their next position. However, only certain people qualify for these benefits, and the claims process can be lengthy and complex.

Under Illinois state law, individuals can claim unemployment benefits if they lost their job through no fault of their own. The state uses three eligibility criteria to determine whether or not you qualify for these benefits.

Do I qualify for unemployment in Illinois?

Criterion #1: Past Earnings

To qualify for unemployment benefits in Illinois, you must meet a minimum threshold of past earnings. The state will look at your earnings over a one-year base period, or your earnings over four quarters. The state may extend the base period if you receive certain disability benefits.

During your base period, you must have earned at least $1,600, with $440 of this income outside of your highest-paid quarter. If you do not meet these minimum earning requirements, the state may deny your unemployment claim.

Criterion #2: Reason for Unemployment

If you are out of work due to no fault of your own, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. Examples of acceptable reasons for being unemployed include having your employer lay you off, your company downsizes for economic reasons, and losing your job through a reduction in the workforce.

You may also qualify for unemployment if you had a good reason for quitting your job, such as sexual harassment, health issues, or unpaid wages. You may also qualify if you left your job due to domestic violence, you left for another position that fell through, or military-related reasons.

You cannot receive unemployment benefits if your employer fired you or you committed an act of work-related misconduct. In Illinois, employees fired for committing a theft or felony will also be ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Criterion #3: Active Search for Next Job

By accepting Illinois unemployment benefits, you commit to engage in an active search for your next position. To qualify for benefits, you must be able and willing to work and available to accept your next position.

You must register for the Illinois Employment Service and provide regular updates on the status of your job search, including detailed records of where you applied and when.  If you receive an offer that suits your needs while receiving unemployment benefits, you must accept it.

Unemployment Benefits for Illinois Residents Impacted by COVID-19

In response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, the United States federal government recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. Under this bill, you may be eligible for the following benefits if you meet certain criteria.

  • Up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits in addition to what Illinois provides, up to a maximum of 39 weeks total
  • An extra $600 per week payment in addition to state-provided unemployment benefits
  • Eligibility for unemployment benefits if you are self-employed or a gig worker
  • A $1,200 stimulus check for each qualifying adult

You qualify for benefits under the CARES Act if your employer laid you off or reduced your hours as a result of COVID-19. In addition, you could claim these benefits if you cannot work because you must self-isolate or go into quarantine, you are caring for a family member with COVID-19, or you must take care of a child if he or she is out of school due to the pandemic.

If you recently lost your job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, financial assistance is available to you in the form of unemployment benefits. However, navigating Illinois’s process for successfully receiving these benefits can be complicated and unnecessary errors can delay your claim.

For best results, contact an Illinois employment lawyer to assist you with your unemployment claim. Your lawyer will have a strong understanding of Illinois labor law and the benefits process, helping you navigate your claim and see a greater chance of securing the funds you need to get through this difficult time.