Understanding Illinois Unemployment Benefits

Whether you've found yourself unemployed indefinitely or just between jobs, it's essential to know how and when you qualify for unemployment. Unemployment insurance is a statewide government program, and there are specific criteria to meet to be eligible for unemployment benefits unique to each state.

It can be daunting to apply if you're unfamiliar with the unemployment system. Get to know the Illinois unemployment qualifications, required documents, overall process, and expected benefits of them before you apply.

Have a question about Unemployment Benefits in Illinois?

Unemployment Eligibility 

The first step is determining whether you're eligible to receive unemployment or not. There are specific criteria that Illinois applies to workers to decide whether they can apply for benefits. To start the process, connect with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) homepage.

The requirements to be eligible for Illinois unemployment benefits are as follows:

  • The loss of employment was through no fault of your own.
  • You were insured at work, and you were paid at least $1,600 in wages during your base period.
  • Your wages were at least $440 during the base period outside the calendar quarter when your wages were the highest.
  • You're registered and looking for a new job through IDES.

Filing an Unemployment Claim

It's essential to file for unemployment during the first week you become unemployed to avoid the risk of delaying the start of your benefits. Illinois law limits unemployment benefits to those who are continuing to seek employment actively. Therefore, you need to be prepared to launch a job search and be diligent about seeking new employment. As part of this process, all persons receiving unemployment benefits must register with Illinois Employment Service systems. To make sure you satisfy both requirements for unemployment, you may start this process online at IllinoisJobLink.com.

Required Documents and Information 

When you apply for unemployment benefits, there are several things you need to provide to the unemployment office. These include:

  • Social Security number.
  • Driver's license or state ID.
  • Social Security numbers, names, and dates of birth if you plan to claim a spouse or children as dependents.
  • All employer information for the past 18 months, including all contact information, dates of employment, and the reasons you no longer work at your prior position(s).
  • You may also need to provide W-2 forms or pay stubs.
  • Report of all gross wages if you worked at all since Sunday of the week in which you're applying for benefits.
  • Excluding Social Security, a list of any pension payment information you're receiving.
  • If you're not a U.S. citizen, you need to provide your alien registration information.
  • If you're a recently separated veteran of the military, you need to supply a Member 4 copy of the DD form 214/215.
  • If you lose employment as a civilian employee of the federal government, you need to provide a copy of your Standard Form 8 and Personnel Action Form 50.

Determining Your Benefit Amount 

Your unemployment amount depends on your earnings during your base period at your previous position. The formula to calculate your weekly benefit amount is as follows:

  • Add up the base period total quarterly wages. 
  • Find the two quarters when you were paid the highest wages and add those amounts together.
  • Once you have that sum, multiply it by 0.47, and then divide by 26.
  • The resulting sum will be your weekly benefit amount. 

The unemployment office can adjust benefits to a higher level if you have a dependent spouse and children. Keep in mind that you can't claim both your spouse and your children, so choose wisely on who you claim. In general, the dependent amount is higher for children than a spouse, so that will likely be your best bet when choosing your dependent(s).

The current unemployment benefit maximum per week is:

  • $484 with no dependents.
  • $577 with a dependent spouse.
  • $669 with a dependent child or children.

How Long Can You Receive Unemployment Benefits?

If you continue to meet all requirements and pursue new employment through IDES, your unemployment will continue for 26 weeks. To continue to be eligible to receive these benefits, you must make sure you rectify weekly. Ensure you have served one waiting week and then continue to file your claim for Illinois unemployment weekly. Keep thorough documentation of your job search to prove that you were willing, able, available, and actively looking for new employment through IDES.

When Will Unemployment Benefits Be Deposited?

The state of Illinois pays unemployment benefits by the calendar week, which starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday. You can expect your benefit payment after the end of the week for that week of unemployment. After your first week of unemployment, you'll have your call day, appointment day, or certification day to report your employment status on each week.

unemployment calculator

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Factors To Consider

There are instances where you could lose your unemployment benefits. These include:

  • Returning to work while continuing to collect unemployment insurance.
  • Failure to report any part-time work, which means you could be collecting more unemployment than you're legally entitled to for benefits.
  • Failure to report any income earned from odd jobs in your weekly claim, which could also mean you're collecting more than you should.

Any of these mistakes, whether committed by accident or deliberately, could end up subjecting you to fines and penalties, a prison sentence, loss of future unemployment benefits, or garnishment of state or federal income tax returns. It's best to be cautious and thorough when applying, certifying, and continuing weekly claims for benefits to avoid any loss of benefits or more severe consequences.

If you follow all of the Illinois state guidelines for receiving unemployment benefits, you can be more secure during your time without employment. Also, the ability to transition quickly into a new job with the state's employment search assistance is helpful. Keep good records, be willing to seek new employment, and adhere to the unemployment guidelines, and you put yourself in the best possible position to make it through the interim period while you're out of work.

It's nice to know that unemployment benefits exist for workers in times of need, but it's also not something one wants to rely on. Consider planning for your financial future and reach out to us at Pasquesi Sheppard, LLC.

We've been providing services, including financial planning, for over 40 years. We can help you get your finances in order to better prepare for the unexpected, such as job loss.