How to Apply for Unemployment in Illinois


Lost your job during the COVID-19 outbreak? Here’s what you need to know about getting unemployment benefits in Illinois.

COVID-19 has sickened hundreds of thousands of people, but its impact hasn’t been limited to public health. Millions of Americans are now unemployed because their employers have been forced to cut their staff or shut their doors. If your income has been hurt during the ongoing crisis, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits. Here’s what you need to know about filing in Illinois.

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Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?

To qualify for unemployment benefits in Illinois, you must have lost your job through no fault of your own (meaning, you weren’t fired for cause). You must also be able and available for work. 

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Under normal circumstances, to collect unemployment benefits in Illinois, you’d need to be actively seeking work, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, this requirement has been waived for now. You’ll be eligible for benefits if you’re not actively seeking work, but are prepared to return to your job as soon as your employer reopens or it’s safe to do so. 

If you’re confined to your home because of COVID-19 (whether due to a diagnosis or a recommended quarantine), you’re considered unemployed for the time being through no fault of your own. The same holds true if your job can’t be done from home and you need to stay home to care for your children.

Furthermore, to qualify for benefits, you must have earned at least $1,600 during your base period, as well as at least $440 outside of the base period quarter when your earnings were highest. If you’re filing an unemployment claim in April 2020, your base period is January through December 2019. 

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

You can file for unemployment benefits online, but due to a high volume of claims right now, you should stick to the following schedule:

  • If your last name starts with A–M, file on Sunday, Tuesday, or Thursday
  • If your last name starts with N–Z, file on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday
  • If you’re not able to file during your scheduled window, file on Saturday
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Be sure to have the following information handy when you submit your claim:

  • Your Social Security number, or Alien Registration ID if you’re not a U.S. citizen
  • Your driver’s license or state ID number
  • The name, mailing address, phone number, employment dates, and reason for separation for all of the employers you worked for in the past 18 months
  • Form DD-214/215 if you most recently worked for the military
  • Form SF-8 and/or SF-50 if you were recently a government employee
  • Your bank account details, if you wish to sign up for direct deposit for your benefits

How much money will I receive in unemployment benefits?

Your weekly benefit is calculated by adding your earnings during your two highest-paid quarters of your base period, taking 47% of that total, and then dividing it by 26. Let’s say you earned $15,000 combined during your two most profitable quarters. You’d be eligible to get $272 a week. The maximum weekly benefit you can receive is $471, and you may be eligible for an additional allowance if you have a non-working spouse or dependent child. 

For a non-working spouse, you get 9% of your total wages during your two highest-paid base period quarters divided by 26, or $52 a week in our example. For a dependent child, you get 17.4% of your total wages during your two highest-paid base period quarters divided by 26, or $100 in our example. You may claim either a non-working spouse or a child allowance, but not both ( so if you have both, claim the higher of the two). The maximum allowance for a non-working spouse is $91 a week, while the maximum for a dependent child is $175 a week. 

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In addition, anyone who files an unemployment claim now is entitled to an extra $600 a week as part of the recently approved economic stimulus package. That $600 applies to dates of unemployment from March 27 through July 31. After that, your weekly benefit reverts back to its original amount — meaning, the amount you’re entitled to based on the above calculations.

How long can I collect unemployment benefits?

Generally, you can collect unemployment benefits in Illinois for up to 26 weeks. However, the CARES Act extends that period by 13 weeks, allowing you to collect unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks.

What if my unemployment claim is denied?

If your unemployment claim is denied, you can appeal it using this form within 30 days of your determination. 

File for benefits now

While you may have an emergency fund to cover some of your expenses while you’re out of work, the last thing you want to do is deplete your savings completely. Unemployment benefits could put money in your pocket that helps you pay your near-term bills, so don’t delay in signing up.

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