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Workers at traditional businesses

On April 6, the Illinois Department of Employment Security began disbursing Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) funds, which was the first week that payments were allowed by the federal government. FPUC provides an additional $600 each week in 100% federally funded benefits to anyone entitled to regular state unemployment benefits. FPUC benefits are available for weeks beginning on or after March 29, 2020 and continuing through the week ending July 25, 2020. Pursuant to federal legislation, this $600 will not be retroactively applied to unemployment claims that arose prior to March 29, 2020.

Those who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits of up to 26 weeks are now eligible for an additional 13 weeks’ worth of 100% federally funded benefits called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). IDES received guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor on April 10 and expects to have the program fully implemented the week of April 20.

Additionally, to speed up the process for unemployment claimants, IDES filed an emergency rule which suspended the requirement that a claimant register with Illinois Job Link if their unemployment is due to a temporary lay-off resulting from a temporary closing attributable to the novel coronavirus.

IDES has also waived the one-week waiting period. Before collection of the regular 26 weeks of unemployment benefits begins, a claimant normally experiences a waiting week during which they do not receive benefits. Through an executive order from Governor Pritzker, the waiting week for claimants was entirely waived. This change allows a claimant to receive two weeks of benefits, rather than the usual one week of benefits as their first payment.

Self-employed & gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors

Beginning May 11, the federal government will allow self-employed workers, freelancers, and independent contractors to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). This program provides a total of 39 weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals not typically eligible for unemployment benefits, including independent contractors and self-proprietors, who have become unemployed as a direct result of COVID-19.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security has advised that those seeking PUA benefits should file a regular unemployment benefits claim now. While they will not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits, their information will kept on file and processed when the PUA program goes into effect on May 11.

PUA claims will be backdated to the individual’s first week of unemployment, but no earlier than February 2, 2020. Benefits will continue for as long as the individual remains unemployed as a result of COVID-19, but no later than the week ending December 26, 2020. While a program of this magnitude might normally take up to a year to design and implement, IDES plans to get this program online by the week of May 11.

IMPORTANT: Unfortunately, rules implemented by the Federal Department of Labor have made it more difficult than Congress initially intended for gig workers to get benefits. New Labor Department guidance says unemployment benefits apply to gig workers only if they are “forced to suspend operations.” This means, for example, that if Uber drivers are still able to turn on their Uber Driver apps and take trips, despite significantly diminished earning potential due to the shrinking demand for Uber rides, they could be ineligible to receive benefits. The rules being implemented by the Federal Department of Labor are complicating the expansion. 

Expanding IDES’ capacity

Through the five weeks from March 1 to April 4, Illinois received more than 500,000 unemployment claims. To put that in perspective, the total number of initial claims for the entirety of 2019 was 489,831. To accommodate the tens of thousands of unemployment claims filed each day over the past month, IDES has taken a number of steps to expand the operating capacity of its call center and website:

  • Overhauling the IDES website infrastructure - IDES worked with the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology to move its website to an entirely new hardware infrastructure with more capacity to handle increased demand. IDES also expedited the process for new users to register and submit a claim, cutting red tape in the validation process. Since these updates, loading times for people using the website are now averaging below one second, and server and mainframe utilization has remained below 50%.
  • Expanding the IDES unemployment call center  - IDES updated its phone system to increase capacity by 40%, reducing wait times and the number of claimants receiving a busy signal. The daily call center hours have been extended to respond to those waiting in the queue after closure. Additionally, IDES is in the process of establishing an outside call center with an additional 200 agents who will assist in the application and certification process. IDES has also reenlisted recently retired staffers with unemployment benefit insurance experience to work on contract to assist the department during this crisis. These retirees will be provided with laptops to allow them to assist from home.
  • Building private partnerships - The administration has sought out partnerships with technology and consulting companies who have stepped up to provide their expertise during this critical time. This includes an exciting partnership with Google AI, Quantiphi, and Carasoft to launch a 24/7 web bot on the IDES website to immediately provide answers to frequently asked questions to people who choose to use the feature. IDES is also working closely with companies like Accenture, IBM, and Deloitte to continue to expand capacity in its existing systems and implement new programs.

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As spring break ends and the time for students to continue receiving education begins, our children are facing a new normal. The information below contains answers to some of the most common parent questions from the Illinois State Board of Education.

How will days count on and after March 31?

ISBE filed emergency rules to create Remote Learning Days and Remote Learning Planning Days, which began March 31 and are considered “pupil attendance days.” They count as days toward the length of the school year.

ISBE continues to count the days that schools utilized during the period of March 17 through March 30th as Act of God days. These days do not need to be made up at the end of the school year.

What are the timelines for return to school?

At this time, there is no timeline. Future decisions regarding return to in-person instruction will be determined with public health officials.

Given the stay at home order included in Executive Order 2020-10, can school personnel still distribute meals to students?

Yes. School districts should continue to distribute meals to students.

Should extracurricular activities still be taking place?

Extracurricular activities must not take place in person during the mandatory suspension of in-person instruction. Further, Executive Orders 2020-10 and 2020-18 require all Illinoisans to stay home except for essential functions.

 Will coursework and graduation requirements be amended or waived?

ISBE highly recommends districts strategize and prepare for how they can meet the needs of graduating seniors, including ensuring transcripts are accessible and students have the continued ability to request recommendations from teachers and the district. ISBE is also investigating opportunities to provide flexibility for graduation requirements for seniors, such as coursework requirements.

 How should student work be graded during Remote Learning Days?

Student work completed during the suspension of in-person instruction must not negatively impact a student’s grades or otherwise impact a student’s academic standing. As ISBE does not yet know the full extent of the closure and wants to minimize any negative effects on students, schools may allow student work to count during the closure only to increase a student’s academic standing.

ISBE's full remote learning recommendations in response to COVID-19 can be found here.

Twitter UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS 1

 Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) 

These loans are provided by the Small Business Administration and were designed to provide small businesses with up to $2 million in working capital loans to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue. They may be used only to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits or to pay for expansion. Funds cannot be used to paydown long-term debt. They also cannot be used to consolidate debt.

$10,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance Grant
The CARES Act provides additional assistance for small business owners and non-profits, including the opportunity to get up to a $10,000 Advance through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Funds are said to be made available within three days of a successful application, and this loan advance will not have to be repaid. On the last page of your EIDL application, you will be asked to check a box stating you want to be considered for the $10,000 advance. Even if your loan is denied, you will not be required to pay back this advance, if approved for it. If your loan is approved, this amount still does not become part of the loan, and will not need to be repaid.

IMPORTANT: If you submitted your EIDL prior to 3/27/20, when the CARES Act was signed into law, and you now want to apply for the $10,000 advance, you must reapply and submit a new application, and be sure to check the box at the end of the application stating you want to be considered for this advance.

How to apply for the EIDL or EIDL Advance Grant:
Visit https://covid19relief.sba.gov/# to begin your application process for Economic Injury Disaster Loan, including the option to request the $10,000 Advance or
Reapply for your EIDL.

Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program was enacted as part of the CARES Act as a loan program designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees. Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

  • Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing SBA lenders.
  • Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing SBA lenders.

The program will be available through June 30, 2020.

How to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program:
Contact your local lender to ask if they are participating in the program. Lenders may begin processing loan applications as soon as April 3, 2020. You can also apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. To find a federally qualified lender, visit https://bit.ly/PPPLoans.

CARES Act

To address the uncertainty and instability many Americans are facing during this outbreak, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides assistance to hospitals, nonprofits, individuals, and businesses.

 If you are wondering about what the CARES Act means for you and your community, here’s some information that may help you navigate the legislation:

 How will the CARES Act help individuals and families?

  • Individuals who earn less than $75,000 annually will receive a direct payment of $1,200, plus an additional $500 for every qualifying child age 16 or under. Married couples who file a joint return and earn less than $150,000 are eligible for up to $2,400 plus an additional $500 for every qualifying child age 16 or under. However, no one must claim you as a dependent on their income tax returns in order to qualify.
  • Eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week on top of state unemployment benefits to cover lost wages. Part-time, self-employed, and gig-economy workers are newly eligible for benefits.
  • States will receive $3.5 billion in Child Care Development Block Grants to help provide child care to health care workers, first responders, and other essential employees.
  • Federal student loan payments will be suspended until Sept. 30.

Will businesses get relief?

  • Small businesses and non-profits will have access to $350 billion in forgivable loans to help them retain employees and pay for expenses like rent, mortgages, and utilities.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering $10 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Advance grants of up $10,000 to provide immediate relief to local business owners. This is in addition to its ordinary Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which provides loans of up to $2 million for working capital. SBA has also established the Debt Relief Program to cover six months of interest payments for small businesses with existing loans.
  • The new Paycheck Protection Program will provide loans as an incentive for small businesses to keep workers on the payroll. SBA will forgive PPP loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities. Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing SBA lenders.

What about protections for health care workers and first responders?

  • Over $120 billion in assistance will go to hospitals and health agencies to help them cover COVID-19 expenses, replenish life-saving supplies, and purchase tests.
    Will the CARES Act support local and state governments?
  • State and local governments will receive $150 billion to pay for new expenses related to COVID-19. The CARES Act also doubles the amount of FEMA funding available to state governments, local governments, and nonprofits.

What kind of benefits will schools receive?

  • Schools across the country—including colleges and universities—will receive over $30 billion in emergency support.

COVID19 Updates

 

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