Illinois Senate starts appropriation process to address growing debt in unemployment insurance fund

Illinois Department of Employment Security
Illinois Department of Employment Security(25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Updated: Mar. 10, 2022 at 9:45 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois lawmakers are looking to fill the $4.5 billion hole in the unemployment insurance fund that was created after thousands of people were left out of work earlier in this pandemic.

The bill appropriates $2 billion from American Rescue Plan funds to address the deficit in the unemployment fund. Bill sponsor Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) said this isn’t the final version or amount of the bill. She said negotiations are ongoing between labor and business representatives.

However, the agreed bill process is confidential and cannot be disclosed at this time. Holmes said the group meets at least twice a week to discuss how to pay down the unemployment debts. She also explained that introducing legislation now will “keep all of the options on the table” as negotiations continue and avoid certain legislative deadlines.

“We want to have this in place to meet certain deadlines,” Holmes said. “We want to make sure before we adjourn in April we want to make sure we have this all on the table and in the works.”

However, Republicans are saying the debt should be paid off in full and replenished so more unemployment benefits can be paid out.

Senate GOP members say 31 states have used ARPA funds to fully pay down their unemployment debt, and they argue Illinois should do the same. They’re also concerned having $2 billion on the table will influence negotiations.

“This t$2 billion, my friends, is nowhere near the amount of money that we need in order to replenish the fund and continue to increase the fund so there’s benefits there to be paid out,” Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said.

Rezin expressed concern that a figure was coming out so early in the appropriations process. However, Holmes said since it’s federal money it comes with a different set of deadlines for negotiations and passage.

The bill passed out of the Senate on a partisan 33-15 vote. It now heads to the House for consideration.

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