Answers to your questions about unemployment

My office has received many calls and emails from constituents over the last couple of weeks about issues they are having while trying to apply for unemployment. We have pulled together some useful information about who qualifies and how to apply, and answers to a few of the more frequently asked questions.



Under the CARES Act, those who are unable to work, or who are working reduced hours because of COVID-19 are eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

Employees qualify for coverage under the following circumstances:

You can’t work because you have symptoms, are quarantined, or are caring for someone who has COVID-19.
Your workplace closed due to the public health emergency.
You had to quit your job because of COVID-19.
You can’t work because you are a caregiver to someone whose school or other facility closed, and you need to care for them.
You were supposed to start a job, but it fell through, or you can’t get there because of COVID-19.

The CARES Act also extends benefits to people who are self-employed (including gig and contract workers), who work part-time, or who typically wouldn’t qualify for unemployment benefits because they lack sufficient work history. However, Illinois is currently unable to process these applications, so these workers shouldn’t apply for unemployment yet. Our Caucus has called on the Governor to get this process up and running as other states have done.


1. Gather necessary documents

Social Security Number and name as it appears on your Social Security Card
Driver’s License or State ID
Name, mailing address, phone number, employment dates, and separation reason for all employers you worked for during the last 18 months. Wage records (W-2, check stubs) may be necessary.
If you worked since Sunday of this week, the gross wages earned this week.
Records of any pension payments you are receiving (not including Social Security)
Alien Registration information if you aren’t a U.S. Citizen.

More details can be found at

2. Where to file your claim

3. When to file your claim

Last names beginning with letters A-M should file their claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
Last names beginning with letters N-Z should file their claims on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays.
Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.
Try to file during non-peak times, such as from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. The claim system may be less burdened at that time.
Online filing and claims applications will be unavailable every night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. for daily claims processing.



Q:My hours were reduced, but I wasn’t laid off. Can I apply for unemployment?

A:Yes! While there isn’t a particular program for people who fall into this category, they can still apply for unemployment. 

Q:What if I’ve been temporarily laid off because the place where I work is closed because of COVID-19?

A:You should qualify for benefits as long as you were able and available for and actively seeking work. Under emergency rules adopted by the Illinois Department of Employment Security, you would not have to register with the employment service. You would be considered to be actively seeking work as long as you are prepared to return to your job as soon as the place you work reopens.

Q:What if I leave work because my child’s school has temporarily closed, and I feel I have to stay home with the child?

A:Normally, no, but under the current circumstances, people who left work to care for their children could be considered unemployed at no fault of their own under these specific circumstances to qualify for unemployment insurance. You still need to meet all other eligibility requirements. 

More details on these questions, and answers to more frequently asked questions can be found here: 

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