Legislation designed to ensure unemployment benefits keep flowing to tens of thousands of jobless Illinoisans is moving quickly through the General Assembly. The bill passed out of the State Senate Wednesday and moved unanimously out of the House Revenue and Finance Committee this morning. HB 1030 would extend the life of the state's Extended Benefit (EB) unemployment insurance program, said Greg Rivara, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
The program "triggers" when the unemployment rate is more than 8 percent and the rate is 110 percent of what it was in the preceding one or two-year period. The tax deal by the White House and Congress last December allowed states to "look back" an extra year beyond the two-year period to calculate who is eligible for their EB programs, thereby allowing Illinois and other states to continue providing benefits to the unemployed. "If the unemployment rate will not be 110 percent higher than it was one or two years ago, the Extended Benefit will trigger off," Rivara said. "If it goes back to three years, it will not trigger off."
People who have been laid off can access EB benefits for up to 20 weeks after they've exhausted other jobless benefit options. If HB 1030 isn't passed by the House and signed into law by the governor, Rivara said 32,000 claimants would lose unemployment insurance starting in early May, as would another 12,000 Illinoisans about to graduate to EB from other jobless insurance programs that month. The bill is likely to pass the full House, given that Speaker Michael Madigan is one of its sponsors.
HB 1030 is written, according to Rivara, assuming there's no change in federal law between now and the fall. In 2009 and 2010, the federal government allowed states, including Illinois, to take out interest-free loans to keep their jobless benefit programs going in the face of high levels of unemployment. That ended this year, so the legislation creates a $90 million fund to allow the state to make an interest payment on the $2.9 billion it has borrowed from the feds, a bill due this September. (In all, 35 states have borrowed to fund their unemployment insurance programs, reports the Rockford Register-Star.) The fund would be created by increasing the amount of wages businesses pay unemployment contributions on. Unemployed workers, meanwhile, would lose a week of benefits starting in 2012 under the bill.