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Illinois Unemploy­ment Law for Cook County

Law:

For:

Cook County Unemployment Offices

Learn about the self-help resources available to you at the Cook County Job Centers.

What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits in Illinois

This site provides clear, accurate information on collecting unemployment benefits in Illinois, including:

Here are three key things to keep in mind as you get started:

1. You can apply for benefits -- and find helpful resources -- at the Illinois Department of Employment Security website.

Before you file for unemployment, you may want to learn more by reading our articles on benefit amounts, who qualifies for benefits, and so on. Once you're ready to file, you can do it online. And, you can find detailed information and resources at the Illinois Department of Employment Security website, including:

 

2. Eligibility rules, benefit amounts, and duration differ from state to state.

Unemployment insurance works pretty much the same everywhere: Employers pay into a fund or purchase insurance, then former employees receive benefits when they lose their jobs. But the rules about who qualifies for unemployment, how long unemployment lasts, and especially how much you will receive in benefits vary a lot from state to state. 

Our site covers every state and the District of Columbia; this page gives you information specific to Illinois. 

3. You may be eligible for benefits even if you quit, you were fired for cause, or you are still working part-time.

Some people mistakenly believe that unemployment is available only to employees who are laid off. However, you don't have to lose your job in a layoff to qualify for benefits. The key question is whether you are out of work without fault on your part. So, if you were forced to quit your job in lieu of being fired, or you were fired because you don't have the necessary skills for your job, you could still be eligible for benefits. 

 

 

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How Do I Apply for Unemployment Benefits in Richton Park, IL?

If you recently lost your job, you might qualify for unemployment benefits: money paid by Illinois’s unemployment insurance fund to those who are temporarily out of work, through no fault of their own. To receive benefits, you must file an application with the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The Illinois Department of Employment Security will determine whether you qualify for benefits and, if so, how much you will receive each week.

Are You Eligible for Benefits? To qualify for benefits, you must have earned a certain amount before losing your job, and you must be out of work for reasons that qualify under Illinois’s rules. Learn more about Illinois’s eligibility requirements

Information You’ll Need to File Your Application

Before you apply, you should review the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s materials on unemployment. You’ll find helpful information and resources at the Illinois Department of Employment Security website. Also, check out the Unemployment Insurance Benefits Handbook, which provides detailed, step-by-step instructions on eligibility, filing for benefits, and claiming your benefits.

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Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Illinois?

To qualify for unemployment benefits in Illinois, you must meet two basic requirements:

  • you must have earned at least a minimum amount (and/or worked a certain amount of time) before you lost your job, and
  • you must be out of work through no fault of your own.

If you meet these two qualifications when you apply, you will likely be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. (To keep receiving benefits after you are found eligible, you will also have to meet your state’s job search requirements; to learn more, see What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in Illinois?)

Gig workers, freelancers, and contractors are no longer eligible for benefits. In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress greatly expanded eligibility for unemployment. Among other things, these programs provided benefits to gig workers and other contract workers who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. However, these programs expired in every state on September 6, 2021; about half the states cut off these benefits even earlier. 

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How Much Will I Collect in Unemployment Benefits in Illinois?

In Illinois, you can earn up to $578 per week in unemployment benefits under state law. 

Although additional money ($300 extra per week) was available under the temporary Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, that program expired on September 6, 2021 (or earlier, in states that cut off these benefits before the program ended). For weeks of unemployment starting on September 6, you will not receive these additional benefits. 

Every state has its own rules for calculating unemployment benefits. Typically, the amount you receive each week is based on your earnings when you were employed. After all, unemployment benefits are intended to replace some of the income you lost along with your job, and tide you over until you find new work.

Calculating Your Benefit Amount

Your weekly unemployment benefit amount depends on your earnings during the base period.

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How Long Will My Unemployment Benefits Last in Illinois?

In Illinois, you can receive unemployment benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks.

A temporary federal program (the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program) allowed claimants to keep collecting benefits after their state benefits ran out. However, that program expired on September 6, 2021 (or earlier, in states that decided to cut these benefits off before the program ended). 

In times of high unemployment, additional weeks of benefits may be available under a different federal program, the Extended Benefits program (see below).

Each state sets its own rules for how long unemployment benefits last. Until quite recently, virtually all states offered a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. In the last five or six years, however, some states have changed their rules on duration of benefits (in most cases, to offer benefits for a shorter period of time).

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Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits in Illinois If I Was Wrongfully Terminated?

In order to collect unemployment, you must meet two basic requirements. First, you must have earned at least a minimum amount, set by state law, in the time before you lost your job. Second, you must be out of work through no fault of your own. (For more information on each of these requirements, see Who is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Illinois?)

If you lose your job in a layoff, reduction-in-force (RIF), or downsizing, you will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. But what if you are fired? And, what if you are wrongfully terminated -- that is, fired for illegal reasons?  

If You Were Fired 

In some situations, you may still qualify for unemployment benefits in Illinois even if you are fired from your job. For example, if you were fired because you were just a poor fit, you may still be eligible for benefits. 

You will be disqualified from receiving benefits if you were fired for misconduct relating to your work. 

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Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits No Longer Available

During the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses skyrocketed, and the unemployment rate reached double digits. Congress responded by creating several temporary unemployment benefit programs. Many employees were eligible for unemployment because they lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and the steps state and local governments took to contain it. Millions more received temporary federal benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program because they were still unemployed when their state benefits ran out. And, many gig workers, contractors, and self-employed people were temporarily eligible for  unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

Expired Federal Pandemic Unemployment Programs 

However, these federal programs ended on September 6, 2021. In some states, they ended even earlier: About half the states decided to stop participating in these programs before they expired.

Since September 6, 2021, these benefits have no longer been available. That means:

  • Benefits are no longer available to the millions of gig workers, contractors, and freelancers who were receiving unemployment through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 
  • Benefits are no longer available through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which offered additional benefits to those who were still unemployed when they used up their state benefits. 
  • Benefits have been reduced for those who were receiving Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, a program that offered $300 extra per week to those collecting unemployment. 

All told, experts estimate that more than seven million people lost their benefits on Labor Day, 2021. More than two million more saw their benefits cut by $300 per week. 

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COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits in Illinois FAQ

1. Are coronavirus unemployment benefits still available?

2. How do I apply for unemployment if I am out of work due to COVID-19?

3. Can self-employed people and gig workers who have lost work due to COVID-19 collect unemployment?

4. How much will I get in unemployment benefits if I am unemployed due to COVID-19?

5. How long will my benefits last if I am unemployed because of COVID-19?

6. Can I collect unemployment if I was furloughed due to COVID-19?

7. Where can I find the latest information on how Illinois is dealing with unemployment claims relating to coronavirus?

1. Are coronavirus unemployment benefits still available?

As of September 6, 2021, the answer is no. The special pandemic programs Congress created to help those who have lost work due to COVID-19 (and the steps state and local governments have taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus) have expired. These programs included:

    • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which made benefits available to those who wouldn't qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, including the self-employed, gig workers, those who have already used up their state benefits, and those who don't meet the work history eligibility requirement in their state. 
    • more...  

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How Can I Find an Unemployment Lawyer in Illinois?

There are several ways to find a good lawyer to help with your unemployment claim in Illinois.

Personal Recommendations

The best way to find a lawyer is always through a referral from someone you know. Ask family members, friends, and professional contacts whether they can recommend a good employment lawyer. 

Lawyers specialize, so your friend’s divorce lawyer won’t be the right person to handle your unemployment case. However, lawyers also know other lawyers, so don’t hesitate to ask a recommended lawyer in a different field for an employment lawyer referral. 

If you can’t find a lawyer through personal recommendations, here are a few other options.

Lawyer Directories

A number of websites offer lawyer directories: lists of lawyers that specialize in a particular field. Keep in mind, though, that these lawyers likely have not been screened for their experience or expertise; it’s up to you to make sure that the attorney you talk to has the right qualifications for your case. Here are a few options:   

Bar Association Directories

You can find lawyers that specialize in employment law through the Illinois Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service. Although the lawyers listed are in good standing (that is, they haven’t been suspended or disbarred), they may not have been screened for experience, quality, or expertise. You will need to determine whether a particular attorney has the qualifications and experience required to handle your case.  

Legal Aid Services

You may qualify for free legal help, if your income is low enough. Every state has legal aid offices that provide legal assistance to people who meet their income guidelines. Check with Illinois Legal Aid Online to learn more.

Many law schools have clinical programs that offer free legal help from law students who are learning the ropes, supervised by professors or practicing attorneys. Find a law school near you on this list from the American Bar Association, then select it to learn more about its legal clinics.

Nolo/Martindale Attorney Network

LegalConsumer.com is an affiliate of the Martindale/Nolo attorney network and can connect you with attorneys in your area who handle unemployment appeals. 

Get a Free Evaluation of your Unemployment Claim by a Local Lawyer
Use the form below to connect with attorneys in the Nolo/Martindale Attorney network serving Illinois and Cook County.



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Paying an Unemployment Lawyer in Illinois

If you may be (or already have been) denied unemployment benefits in Illinois, you may be wondering whether you need a lawyer -- and whether you can afford to hire a lawyer to help with your unemployment case. It all depends on your financial situation and how (and how much) the attorney charges. Although unemployment attorneys often charge by the hour, an unemployment attorney may be willing to offer you a contingency fee arrangement in some situations. This means the lawyer gets paid only if you win, out of the money you receive as a settlement or award. 

Below, we explain some typical attorney fee arrangements in unemployment cases. 

Initial Consultation

Your first step in choosing an attorney – and deciding whether it makes sense to fight your employer in an unemployment claim, appeal, or lawsuit – is an initial consultation. The initial consultation provides you and the attorney an opportunity to decide whether and how you will work together. more...