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Over 500K people file for unemployment in Illinois as coronavirus deaths approach 800

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and state officials speak at a press conference Monday afternoon in Chicago | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Governor J.B. Pritzker outlined Illinois’ effort to expand access and eligibility to unemployment benefits as 74 new COVID-19 deaths were reported on Monday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said the state’s COVID-19 total has reached 22,025 cases and 794 deaths. The number of people tested so far is at 105,768, data shows.

There were 1,173 new coronavirus cases and 74 additional deaths since Sunday, the IDPH said on Monday.

“The challenges workers and families are facing today is something my whole administration thinks about each day as we are simultaneously attempting to fend off the health consequences of coronavirus,” Pritzker said.

“We are working around the clock at all levels to provide unemployment benefits to the unprecedented number of Illinoisans who have lost their jobs to the spread of COVID-19. I will continue to do everything in my power to get our residents the support they need to get through this crisis,” he added.

Between March 1 and April 4, Illinois has received 513,173 unemployment claims. That is larger than the total number of claims in all of 2019 and five times greater than claims filed in the first five weeks of the 2008 great recession.

The Pritzker administration has increased capacity on the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) website and ramped up efforts at the IDES call center to meet the number of unemployment claims. Since March 1, the IDES website has fielded over 6.5 million sessions and the IDES call center has processed thousands of calls per day.

IDES has overhauled their website infrastructure, expanded the call center capacity and secured private partnerships to expand capacity in its existing systems and implementation of new programs.

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Three programs — Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) — help cover those who are unemployed, the state said.

FPUC provides an additional $600 each week in federal funds to anyone who receives regular state unemployment benefits.

PUA helps cover self-employed sole proprietors and independent contractors who are not covered through other avenues of unemployment insurance.

PEUC provides up to 13 weeks worth of federal funds for those who have exhausted their rights to regular state unemployment benefits of up to 26 weeks in Illinois.

On Sunday, Pritzker announced 43 people had died of COVID-19 since Saturday — the lowest in six days — and that many of the state’s over 20,000 cases have recovered.

“I’ve spoken before about a stabilizing or a bending of the curve, and today is one more piece of evidence that it may indeed be happening,” Pritzker said at his Sunday press conference.

He also noted that the percent of those who tested positive is almost exactly the same as it has been the past two weeks.

“I pray as we move forward these trends continue, and if they do it will be because of all of you adhering to our stay-at-home order,” Pritzker said.

He believes that less than 20% of Illinois residents have been exposed to coronavirus and recovered from it, so the state has not reached “herd immunity.”


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