Illinois Gig Workers Can Now Apply For Unemployment

May 12, 2020

Gig workers and independent contractors now qualify for unemployment benefits in Illinois. While many of those workers have been trying for weeks to receive financial help, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday a new third-party system is already helping to process claims more efficiently.

Independent contractors are also known as 1099 workers because of the type of form they fill out with the Internal Revenue Service. The rules for their employment are different than those who work for a typical employer.

Under the federal government's Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, those workers can now qualify for unemployment benefits. Individual states like Illinois had 43 days from the time the program was approved to accommodate those workers, and the state started accepting applications Monday.

Gov. Pritzker said 50,000 people have filed for PUA funds in just the last day, an amount the state’s original unemployment computer system could not have processed.

“It was built on a ten year old platform, not expecting to take the kind of size of applications that have come in for regular unemployment, but this PUA system which was built with outside assistance is doing well," Pritzker said.

Those who are interested in PUA funds must apply at the Illinois Department of Employment Security website, though they must first apply for traditional unemployment benefits. After a few weeks, IDES is supposed to certify whether they qualify, though there have been reports the department has been slow to respond.

Anyone who receives unemployment benefits has to prove they’re available to work, and that they’re actively looking for work. Those benefits are taxable, and recipients will be able to get that money for up to nine months.

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