File for unemployment illinois

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Federal Unemployment Insurance Enhancements

This page will be updated continuously to reflect the most recent information. This page was last updated on May 20, 2021.

The American Rescue Plan provides unemployed workers with enhanced unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021.  This includes additional payments of $300 per week for beneficiaries through that time.  The number of total weeks a recipient may receive unemployment benefits has also been increased to 79 weeks. 

For those with incomes less than $150,000 in 2020, the first $10,200 of unemployment insurance benefits will not be taxed.  

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act established new federal unemployment insurance (UI) enhancements to support Illinois workers who lose their job or are furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The December 2020 COVID-19 relief law further extended or modified several of these key provisions.

Important Note: In Illinois, workers traditionally have access to up to 26 weeks of UI benefits. The State of Illinois calculates benefit levels, and the maximum benefit available is dependent on several factors, including your marital status and if you have children. Please also note that your UI benefits are based on where you work, not where you live. For Illinoisans to qualify for Illinois UI benefits, they must have worked in the state within the last 18 months.

FAQ on Current, Federal UI Enhancements

Who is eligible for the enhanced unemployment insurance under the CARES Act?
In addition to those workers who qualified for UI benefits prior to COVID-19, other individuals who are laid off or furloughed may be eligible for benefits as a result of the laws noted above. The CARES Act expanded UI eligibility to self-employed workers and independent contractors, such as those employed within the “gig economy,” and those with a traditionally insufficient earnings history.

How much will I receive from unemployment insurance?
Each state has its own calculation for UI benefits. In Illinois specifically, the maximum benefit available is dependent on several factors, including your earnings history, your marital status and if you have children. Below is a breakdown of the maximum benefit available to Illinois workers, though it is important to note that your UI benefits may fall below this topline threshold:

Worker Status

Maximum UI Benefit

Single w/o Children


Married w/o Children


Married w/ Children


As a result of the December 2020 COVID-19 relief law, individuals who receive UI benefits between December 31, 2020 and March 14, 2021 will receive an additional $300 per week on top of their normal State-level UI benefits.

I lost my job months ago. Am I still eligible?
Yes, you may still be able to qualify for back payment of UI benefits starting on, or after, January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020 if you lost your job as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

I haven’t lost my job, but my hours have been significantly reduced. Can I still receive unemployment insurance?
Yes. In Illinois, you are eligible for UI if you are out of work or are no longer working full time because full time work is not available. 

How do I apply for unemployment insurance?
Illinoisans can file for unemployment insurance with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) at IDES also has a series of FAQ pages that can be accessed here.

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call IDES’s TTY service – Illinois Relay – at 1-866-488-4016.

What if I’ve already exhausted my 26 weeks of Illinois unemployment insurance benefits?
The CARES Act provided federal funding for an additional 13 weeks of UI benefits for those participating in a traditional state program who have exhausted their benefits, and the recent COVID-relief law provided funding for an additional 11 weeks. That means if you work in Illinois, you now have access to up to 50 weeks of UI benefits.

I am employed within the “gig economy.” Why was I denied unemployment? 
The PUA program has been established for individuals who are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work for reasons attributable to COVID-19 and not covered by the state’s regular UI program. To establish eligibility under the PUA program, the claimant will have to demonstrate he/she is not eligible under the regular UI program. Applying for and being denied benefits under the regular UI program can help establish eligibility under the PUA program. 

Will my unemployment insurance benefit be taxed? 
Yes, UI payments are considered taxable for Federal income tax purposes. As a result of the American Rescue Plan, most households will not be taxed at the Federal level for the first $10,200 in earnings from unemployment compensation. That benefit is available to households with earnings below $150,000 in 2020. 

If eligible, exclude up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation paid to you in 2020 (and up to another $10,200 of unemployment compensation paid to your spouse if you're married and file a joint tax return). You don't have to pay tax on unemployment compensation that is excluded from your gross income. 

Because the change occurred after some filed their taxes, the IRS will take steps to make the appropriate change to their return, which may result in a refund. The first refunds are expected to be made in May and will continue into the summer. There is no need for taxpayers to file an amended return unless the calculations make the taxpayer newly eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on the original tax return. More information can be found here.  

I received benefits under the PUA program and was charged with an overpayment. Is it possible to waive an overpayment? 
The federal Continued Assistance Act, signed into law on December 27, 2020, provides states the ability to waive recovery of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) overpayments in the event the overpayments were established through no fault of the claimant; and the recovery of the overpayment would be against “equity and good conscience.” If an overpayment was established on your PUA claim, you will receive a Request for Waiver of Recovery of PUA Overpayment Questionnaire by email or mail, depending on your PUA correspondence preference. To be considered for a waiver, you must complete and return the questionnaire in full by providing clear, detailed responses to each question. More information can be found here. 


Unemployment insurance is a statewide government program in Illinois. It gives money to people who are temporarily out of work. It is run by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).

You have to meet certain requirements to get money from the program. These requirements have changed due to Covid. It is now easier to qualify.

Learn more by watching this video from IDES:

How do I apply for UI?

The best way to apply is online at the IDES website. You may also call (800) 244-5631. But there are long wait times on the phone.

If you apply online, you must use a desktop computer, a laptop, or a tablet. You cannot use a smartphone.

You cannot apply in person. IDES offices are only open for limited purposes due to Covid.

What information do I need to apply for UI?

In order to apply for UI, you should have the following information on hand:

  • Your Social Security number,
  • Your driver’s license or State ID,
  • Your employment history from the past 18 months, including the name of employers, start date, last day of work, and number of days worked, and
  • Your dependent’s name, social security number, and date of birth if you are claiming a dependent child or spouse.

If you do not have a State ID or driver’s license, you will need another form of ID. It must not be expired. It must show your name, address, and date of birth.

When should I apply for UI?

You should apply as soon as possible. Ideally, apply within the first week of your unemployment.

The application is closed every day between 8-10pm.

What if I messed up my UI application?

You can correct your application or claim information by calling the IDES at (800) 244-5631.

You may have trouble reaching the IDES by phone. The busiest call times are between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. You can also use the online IDES Contact Form.

Who qualifies for unemployment insurance (UI)?

To qualify for unemployment insurance, you must be unemployed, and it must not be your fault. For example, you do not qualify if you quit because you did not like the work that you were doing. Or if you were fired because of misconduct.

You must also have made a certain amount of money recently. The period of time IDES looks at for your income is your “base period.”  To see if you qualify:

  1. Look at the date you are planning to make your claim. 
  2. Look at the date of the upcoming Sunday of that week. 
    • If that date is before March 31st, 2021, your “base period” is October 1st, 2019 to September 30th, 2020.
    • If that date is between April 1st, 2021 and June 30, 2021, your “base period” is January 1st, 2020 to December 31st, 2020.
    • If that date is between July 1st, 2021 and September 30, 2021, your "base period" is April 1st, 2020 to March 31, 2021.
    • If that date is between October 1st, 2021 and December 31st, 2021, your "base period" is July 1st, 2020 to June 30th, 2021.
  3. Break up your “base period” into 3-month sections, starting on the first day. Each section is called a “quarter.” 
  4. Add up the total amount of wages for each quarter and write those numbers down.
  5. Find the quarter with the highest amount of wages. Ignore that amount and add the total amount you made in the other 3 quarters. The amount must be $440 or more, not including*:
    • Agricultural work for an employer that employs less than 10 people,
    • Domestic work for an employer that pays less than $1,000 a quarter for those services,
    • Railroad work,
    • Work for another family member,
    • Work as a salesman paid by commission outside of a permanent retail business, or
    • Government-funded work-relief or work training.
  6. Now add up the wages you made during your entire “base period” (all four quarters). The total must be $1,600 or more, with the same exclusions above.

Learn more about how to qualify for and calculate unemployment benefits.

*Not a full list. IDES will tell you if you qualify after you apply.

Why was I denied unemployment benefits?

Even if you meet the minimum requirements, you may be disqualified from receiving benefits for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Quitting your job without good cause,
  • Being fired for misconduct,
  • Not applying for or accepting a suitable job offer,
  • Receiving unemployment benefits from another state,
  • Receiving pension payments for any week you are claiming benefits, and
  • Not legally working in the U.S.

For a complete list of disqualifications, see pages 5-6 of the IDES Unemployment Insurance Benefits Handbook.

I was hired for a new job but couldn’t start because of COVID. Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?

You may qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) if:

  • You were scheduled to start work but it was canceled because of Covid-19, or
  • You are unable to reach your job because of Covid-19.

You will have to apply for regular unemployment benefits and be denied first before applying for PUA. Please see the IDES website for more information about applying for PUA.

Do immigrants qualify for unemployment benefits?

You can apply for unemployment benefits if you are a green card holder, a DACA recipient, or an asylum grantee. To receive benefits, you must have work authorization now and during your “base period.” This will not affect your immigration status. 

Unemployment benefits are considered “earned” benefits. They will not make you a “public charge,” unlike some public benefits, like SNAP.

Not all workers are covered. Certain agricultural workers and domestic workers cannot receive unemployment benefits in Illinois. Other workers, such as independent contractors or freelancers, might be eligible for benefits under the PUA program.

If you have specific questions about your immigration status, use Get Legal Help to find a lawyer.

How much money do you get?

The amount of money you get each week depends on how much you earned in your “base period” (see above). To find how much you will receive weekly:

  1. Add up the total wages for each quarter in your “base period,”
  2. Find the 2 quarters with the highest wages and add them together,
  3. Multiply this amount by 0.47, and 
  4. Divide this amount by26.

The result is your weekly benefit amount. The amount will be higher if you have a dependent spouse or children. You cannot claim both your spouse and children. 

The maximum weekly benefit amount is:

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

See this table of benefit calculations.

Also, the Federal government is giving $300 extra. You are eligible for this additional $300, if you:

  • Are unemployed due to Covid-19,
  • Are receiving benefits through a debit card or direct deposit, and
  • Are receiving at least a total amount of $100 per week in unemployment compensation.

This extra money lasts through Monday, September 6th, 2021. IDES lists this date as Saturday, September 4th, 2021 because they calculate weeks from Saturday to Saturday.

Learn more about this extra amount.

Can creditors garnish my unemployment benefits?

No. Public or government benefits are protected from creditors. This includes unemployment benefits.

Will child support be deducted from my unemployment benefits?

If you file for unemployment benefits, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IDHFS) can have your current child support payments deducted from those benefits. Child support can only be deducted if the custodial parent has a child support case.

Past due child support can be deducted from your benefits if the IDES receives a court order to withhold income. If you entered into an agreement to pay past due child support, it may be enforced by the IDHFS. They will send the original agreement to the IDES and request the payments be deducted. The agreement must clearly state:

  • The amount to be deducted,
  • The recipient of the payments,
  • When the deductions are to be made, and 
  • Why you are required to make payments.

Learn more about paying child support when you are unemployed and changing child support payments.

How do I certify for benefits? What if I miss my certification date?

After filing your claim you will receive a Finding. You will be assigned a certification day on either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. You must certify on the day listed on your Finding. If you miss your certification day, you can certify on Thursday or Friday of that week. You must certify every two weeks. You can do this online or by calling Tele-Serve at (312) 338-4337.

Late certifications will not be accepted. Failure to certify on your assigned day (or the Thursday or Friday of that week) could cause denial of benefits or a delay in processing your benefits.

Learn more about certifying for benefits.

My payment was delayed or I did not receive it at all. Why is this happening?

The IDES sends a debit card a few days after your application is processed. However, it can take a few weeks for the IDES to determine your benefits. This may be why you received a debit card with a $0 balance. You can also set up your bank account to receive direct deposit by logging into your account on the IDES website.

How long does unemployment insurance last?

Unemployment lasts for 26 weeks (6 months).

Can my employer fight my claim?

Yes. Employers must pay IDES for every claim that is made by their employees. So they have the right to fight a claim if they don’t think it is proper.

When do unemployment benefits start?

Unemployment benefits start the Sunday before you file. This means that as long as you are able to file by Saturday, you will not miss out on the week of benefits.

You must file a benefits claim by the end of the first week in which you are unemployed. If you file later and do not request backdating, your claim will start the week it was filed.

If you file after your first week of being unemployed but within a year, you can request the IDES backdate your claim. Claims can be backdated if you can show:

  • You were unaware of your rights to benefits,
  • Your employer or the IDES did not fulfill their legal responsibilities,
  • Your employer told you not to file a claim for benefits, or
  • There were other circumstances outside your control.

You must also show that you filed your claim within 14 days after your reason for not filing ended.

If you did not file your claim on time because of issues with the IDES website, ask a rep about backdating your claim by calling (800) 244-5631.

Do I need to look for work while I get unemployment?

Generally yes. You must register with and document your efforts to find work. 

However, if you were temporarily laid off because of coronavirus (Covid-19), you do not need to do this. You just need to be ready to return to your job when it reopens.

What if I left work to watch my child during the coronavirus pandemic?

You might still qualify. IDES has said they will consider applications from people in this situation.

If you are stuck at home because you were diagnosed with Covid-19, you are unemployed through no fault of your own. But you still need to meet all other requirements for benefits. This includes:

  • Being able and available for work,
  • Registering with the state employment service, and
  • Actively seeking work from home. 

You are considered able and available for work if there is some work that you can perform from home (e.g., transcribing, data entry, virtual assistant services), and there is a labor market for that work.

Normally, if you leave work to address childcare needs it would be considered voluntary. This would disqualify you from receiving benefits. But the statewide school closure in response to the pandemic creates a unique situation. If your children cannot stay home alone and you do not have an alternative, you may be unemployed through no fault of your own. You still need to meet all other requirements for benefits.

What if I left work because I am concerned over the coronavirus?

Normally you would not qualify if you quit your job voluntarily. But IDES considers the facts of each case, so you may qualify because of the unique coronavirus situation. 

It will depend on whether you had a good reason for quitting. The reason must be something the employer did.

What if, because of my age or health condition, I am more prone to being affected by the Covid-19? Do I still have to go to work?

It is unclear. If you have an underlying condition that may seriously compromise your health, you may stay home. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) allows you to refuse to go to work and file a complaint if you believe you are in imminent danger. This means, if “a danger exists which can reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm.” This may include co-workers testing positive for Covid-19. This is a high standard, and you may still lose your job.

If I am an essential worker, can I apply for unemployment benefits because of the risk of COVID to me and my family? Can I be fired for not coming to work?

If you are still working full-time, you will not be eligible for UI. If your employment is affected by the pandemic, you may qualify for PUA.

As an at-will employee, you can be fired for any reason with a few exceptions. You cannot be fired for engaging in a protected activity, such as whistleblowing, or if you have legitimate health concerns. You may still be eligible for unemployment benefits.

If your employer will not let you miss work during the pandemic, you may refuse to return to work. The IDES website has additional information about refusing to return to work. You must show you have a good reason for refusing a suitable work offer. The IDES will consider:

  • The degree of risk involved to your health, safety, and morals,
  • Your physical fitness and prior training,
  • Your experience and prior earnings,
  • The length of unemployment and work prospects in your usual occupation, and 
  • The distance of the available work from your residence.

Is my employer required to make us wear masks?

This depends on your employer and the industry in which you work. Face masks covering your nose and mouth are required in any public place where you are unable to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others. It is recommended that you check with your employer about their safety policy. 

See our blog post on wearing a mask for more information.

Could I qualify for unemployment benefits if I am a gig worker or an independent contractor? 

Yes. Even if your employer considers you a contractor, or you are a sole proprietor or 1099 employee, you should file. The existing Illinois program covers some of these workers. The new federal PUA program covers the ones that the Illinois program does not.

IDES has a portal for people to apply for help under the new law. You must first apply under the old law and be denied before you can apply under the new law. You can also visit the IDES website to learn more about PUA before applying. It describes who is eligible for PUA, how to file, and how to avoid common application mistakes.

If you are in the Illinois arts community, Lawyers for the Creative Arts might be able to give you free legal help. You can apply on their website. They help people no matter if they are a W-2 employee, 1099, freelancer, or gig economy worker.

Will collecting unemployment affect my Social Security benefits?


If I live in Illinois but commute to work to a different state, where do I file for unemployment?

File in the state where you pay state income taxes.

Do I have to be completely out of work to qualify for unemployment benefits?

No. You can still qualify even if:

  • You still work part time,
  • Your hours were reduced, or
  • You were working two jobs and now are only working one.

Self-employment income does not count towards calculating your benefits. Benefits are based on your current and past income. See How much money do you get? and learn more about receiving unemployment benefits when you work a part time or temp job.

Do I stop receiving unemployment insurance benefits if I am hired for a short-term job?

It depends on your wages.

If your gross wages are less than your weekly benefit amount, you may still be eligible to get a full or partial benefit payment.

If your gross wages are more than your weekly benefit amount, you will not be eligible for a benefit payment.

You must notify IDES as soon as you are hired for any job, even if it is short-term. If you plan to continue to use your unemployment insurance benefits, you should continue to certify your income. 

If you stop working again, you need to notify the change to IDES. You will go back to getting the full weekly benefit amount.

Can I appeal the decision if I am denied unemployment benefits?

You have the right to appeal any determination that denies you benefits. You will receive a written notice of appeal and waiver recoupment if you received benefits, but were then ineligible. You can learn more about how to appeal an IDES unemployment decision on our website.

How do I tell IDES I got a job and don’t need unemployment benefits anymore?

Notify IDES Claimant Services as soon as possible, but not later than 14 days after the day you were supposed to certify. Failure to report your return to work could lead to penalties and fraud charges.

To report your return to work, call the IDES New Hire Unit at (888) 776-7708.

What other resources are available if I do not qualify for benefits?

If you do not qualify for unemployment benefits, there are a few other options for relief.

The Chicago Restaurant Worker Relief Fund was created to help Chicago restaurant, bar and coffee shop workers. This fund will provide emergency relief grants based on need to workers that lost wages or employment due to the shutdown for the pandemic. Grants will be awarded to applicants who are eligible. You can apply here.

Learn more about housing and money and debt during the pandemic.

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After you file your claim, you will receive information from IDES in the mail. If your request for benefits has been approved, you will receive a form titled "UI Claimant Wage Information Sheet." This form will describe your benefits and will list the day that you need to call IDES to certify your benefits. If you do not receive your letter within 3-4 weeks, you should call IDES. Find out if they have made a decision. That way, you can appeal if you have been denied.

You may receive a letter from IDES about an "adjudication interview." This means that you must speak or meet with someone from IDES to verify that you are eligible for benefits. Most interviews are done over the phone. The letter will give you a date and time for the meeting. It will also give you more information about who to contact. 

Make sure you do not miss this interview. If you do, you might be denied. Then you will have to appeal. Filing an appeal makes the process harder. If you cannot make the scheduled date, contact the IDES immediately.

Illinois residents unable to file, certify unemployment benefits due to computer failure

(FirmBee / Pixabay)(FirmBee / Pixabay)

In Illinois, more than 1.2 million unemployment claims have been processed since March amid the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders that have closed businesses and schools across the state.

Many residents are filing for unemployment insurance for the first time, and they’re finding the process isn’t necessarily easy to navigate. Plus, Illinois Department of Economic Security offices are currently closed, which means you must file online or by phone.

Here are some tips from the IDES to get you on the right track:

Find out if you’re eligible for unemployment insurance

You’re eligible if you lost a job due to no fault of your own, earned enough income in the recent past, are actively looking for work and are “able and available” for work. 

If your hours were cut from full time to part time, you may be eligible for benefits.

How to determine if you earned enough income in the recent past. 

According to IDES, you meet those requirements if you were paid $1,600 or more during a recent 12-month period (which IDES refers to as the base period) and if you were paid at least $440 of your base period wages at any time outside the base period quarter in which your wages were highest.

Hang on. Am I “able and available” for work during the pandemic?

“We’ve heard from a lot of people getting tripped up by this question,” said Rebecca Cisco, an IDES spokesperson. “People will think, ‘I’m not able and available to work because I’m under quarantine or because I’m sheltering in place.’ (People) are thinking about this technically.” Being “able and available” for work means you would return to work if an employer were reopening or even work remotely if offered a job, according to Cisco.

Assemble the necessary documentation.

Do this before you begin an application online as the system will time out after an hour of nonuse, according to IDES. To file for unemployment insurance, you will need your Social Security number and driver’s license or state ID. You’ll also need your employment history for the past 18 months, including names of employers, start date(s), last day of work and number of days worked. Wage records may also be needed, so have your W-2 or pay stubs handy.

Use your name exactly as it appears on your Social Security card and be as accurate as possible

Double and triple check your information, says Cisco. “Make sure you have all the information correct and make sure the name you’re putting on the claim matches with the Social Security card number and employment record.”

File online.

Due to the high volume of calls, IDES is requesting unemployment claims be filed online. Claims can be filed at any time except from 8-10 p.m. when processing occurs. To manage the site’s traffic, the agency wants people to adhere to the following filing schedule:

— If your last name begins with the letters A-M, file Sundays, Tuesdays or Thursdays;

— If your last name begins with the letters N-Z, file Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays;

— If you can’t file during your allotted window, you can file on Saturdays.

If you have a question and need to call, or you want to file by phone, follow the filing schedule. 

Cisco says it’s very important that people follow the schedule because it frees up the call center and allows people to get through to a representative. The call center (800-244-5631) is open from 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Last names beginning with the letters A-M can call Tuesdays and Thursdays; last names beginning with the letters N-Z can call Mondays and Wednesdays. If you can’t file during your allotted window, call on Friday.

Be aware of benefit expansions.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act included several federally funded unemployment benefit expansions, including the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $600 per week through July 25 for all people receiving unemployment benefits automatically. The act also includes the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits for those who have exhausted regular unemployment benefits, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA).

A note about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: You can only file for this federally funded program after you applied for and were denied regular unemployment insurance. The program provides benefits for many individuals, including self-employed workers and independent contractors who have become unemployed as a direct result COVID-19. You can also apply for the program if you’ve exhausted the 26 weeks of regular unemployment insurance and 13 weeks of PEUC.

Watch the mail.

After you’ve submitted an application, you’ll get a letter in the mail telling you if you’ve been approved, how much you’re eligible to receive, a debit card (unless you opted for direct deposit) and a certification date.

Don’t forget to certify.

If you’re approved for unemployment benefits, you’ll have to take part in a certification process on a specific day every two weeks to let IDES know you’re still not working or earning wages, you are actively seeking work and remain available and able to work. If you do earn some income but are still unemployed, you must report that when you recertify, according to Cisco, who says that means you receive fewer benefits for that week.

For more information about unemployment insurance, visit the IDES website. You can review the department’s Unemployment Insurance Benefits Handbook here.


Unemployment illinois for file

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IDES acting director responds to criticism about Illinois unemployment benefits delays, fraud

You know, he said. It was not a question. This was a statement.

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