SPRINGFIELD (WSIL) -- More than 500,000 Illinois residents filed unemployment claims in just a five-week span, according to Gov. JB Pritzker's office.
The governor's office said, from March 1 to April 4, the state received 513,173 initial unemployment claims, 23,000 more than the total number of initial claims in all of 2019.
State officials are working to increase capacity on the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) website and phone system to handle the demand.
"Since March 1, the IDES website has fielded over 6.5 million sessions and the IDES call center has processed thousands of calls per day," said a release from the Pritzker administration.
Administrators say the website has been upgraded to offer quicker page load times and call center hours have been extended. An outside call center is also being established, and retired IDES employees are being brought back, to assist with applications and certifications.
“The challenges workers and families are facing today is something my whole administration thinks about each day as we are simultaneously attempting to fend off the health consequences of coronavirus,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We are working around the clock at all levels to provide unemployment benefits to the unprecedented number of Illinoisans who have lost their jobs to the spread of COVID-19."
Other unemployment assistance programs, per Governor Pritzker's office:
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
FPUC provides an additional $600 each week in 100% federally funded benefits to anyone entitled to regular state unemployment benefits. FPUC is available for weeks beginning on or after March 29, 2020 and continuing through the week ending July 25, 2020.
The administration acted immediately to implement this federal program and provide much needed resources to Illinois residents. As a result, IDES began disbursing funds through this program, starting the week of April 5, 2020, which was the first week the federal legislation allowed FPUC to be paid. From March 29, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020, benefits will be applied automatically to claimants who qualify.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
PUA provides 100% federally funded unemployment benefits for individuals who are unemployed for specified COVID-19-related reasons and are not covered through other avenues in the unemployment insurance program, including self-employed sole proprietors and independent contractors. IDES is contracting with Deloitte to implement and maintain a web-based solution for PUA as quickly as possible. IDES will have this program fully implemented by the week of May 11.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
PEUC provides up to 13 weeks’ worth of 100 percent federally funded benefits to individuals who have exhausted their rights to regular state unemployment benefits of up to 26 weeks in Illinois. PEUC is potentially available for weeks beginning on or after March 29, 2020 and continuing through the week ending December 26, 2020. PEUC will be retroactive once implemented. IDES received USDOL guidelines on April 10 and expects to have the program fully implemented the week of April 20.