SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) on Thursday released new statewide data showing the department processed over 141,000 new initial unemployment claims for the week ending April 11. As of March 1, the department has processed more than 650,000 initial unemployment claims, 12 times more than the number of claims over the corresponding time period last year, when it processed 53,000 initial unemployment claims.

It is also five times greater than the amount processed during the first six weeks of the Great Recession. Statewide unemployment claims data, which reflects activity for the week prior, will be available on the IDES website every Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that the ranks of America’s unemployed swelled toward Great Depression-era levels Thursday in an unprecedented collapse that intensified the push-pull from the White House on down over how and when to lift the coronovirus restrictions that have crippled the economy.

The government said 5.2 million more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the four-week total to about 22 million out of a work force of 159 million — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record. The losses translate to about 1 in 7 workers.

To meet the needs of this unprecedented level of claimants in Illinois, the Pritzker administration overhauled the IDES website infrastructure, expanded web and call center capacity, and secured third party vendor partnerships to further implement and streamline new programs that enhance filing capabilities. The department also reenlisted recent retirees who have the required knowledge and experience to process unemployment claims to assist the department during this crisis.

This week, Governor Pritzker outlined efforts the administration and the department have taken to expand access and eligibility to unemployment insurance and provided an update on the implementation of programs included in the federal CARES Act. To date, IDES has suspended the employment services requirement to register with Illinois Job Link if their unemployment is due to a temporary lay-off resulting from COVID-19, and modified the “able and available to work” requirement to those who have become unemployed due to COVID-19, waived the waiting week for claimants, and implemented the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $600 each week in federally funded benefits to eligible Illinoisans.

In the coming weeks, IDES will roll-out the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides up to 13 weeks’ worth of federally funded benefits to individuals who have exhausted their regular state unemployment benefits. The department is also contracting with Deloitte to launch a new benefit system in May for individuals who are not typically covered by the state’s unemployment.

Those with questions or in need of assistance with unemployment benefits at this time are encouraged to visit IDES.Illinois.gov.

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