Keicher, Wheeler Call for Immediate Remedies to Unemployment Failures at the Department of Employment Security

Assistant House Minority Leader Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, and State Representative Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, are calling on Governor JB Pritzker and state officials to rectify the failed unemployment system in Illinois and provide immediate assistance and relief to families across the state.

“At a time when Illinois families impacted by COVID-19 need state government the most, the process for applying for unemployment insurance has simply failed,” Rep. Wheeler said. “These are families who were living paycheck to paycheck and now have no way to put food on the table for their children. We must do better by fixing this issue immediately.”

In March, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued two executive orders that 1) restricted dine-in service at restaurants, bars and food establishments, and 2) closed non-essential businesses across the state until April 30, 2020 (tentatively). These pre-determined actions resulted in mass layoffs and furloughs in every part of the state, with nearly 500,000 residents filing for unemployment and countless others who cannot get through to IDES and are not receiving deserving benefits.

“The federal government has stepped up to help those who have been cut off from vital paychecks after losing their jobs,” Rep. Keicher said. “The failure of IDES means residents who can’t apply are not able to receive state OR federal benefits. The Governor needs to get IDES working efficiently, especially for our self-employed workers who have no idea when they will be able to apply for benefits.”

The federal government’s CARES Act allows for any self-employed workers, gig workers and independent contractors to apply for unemployment insurance for the first time. While states across the country have started rolling out this new plan, the Governor’s Office announced today that Illinois will not be prepared to begin opening up access to these workers until the week of May 11.

“The State of New York, in the midst of dealing with far and away the highest death toll and the most positive cases of COVID-19 of any state, is already set-up today for the self-employed, gig workers and independent contractors to apply for unemployment insurance,” Wheeler and Keicher added. “Illinois is far, far behind where we need to be to provide access to unemployment for this large pool of workers. This is wholly unacceptable and tragic.”

Representative Keicher serves the 70th District, which includes portions of Boone, DeKalb and Kane Counties.

Representative Wheeler serves the 50th District, which includes portions of Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, Campton Hills, Elburn, Montgomery, Oswego, Plano, St. Charles, Sugar Grove and Yorkville.