New data shows how the reauthorization of federal unemployment assistance could help 64,000 Illinoisans.
When federal long-term unemployment benefits ended in December, according to the analysis from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, 74,000 Illinois workers immediately lost their temporary help. Jay Rowell, the department's director, said 86 percent of them still were without work one month later.
"This seriously undermines the idea that unemployment insurance discourages people from finding employment," Rowell said. "To get unemployment, you had to have been working and lost your job through no fault of their own. So these were people who were working before, have been looking for work, and just haven't been able to find it."
Rowell says veterans and older workers face the greatest challenges when looking for employment.
The data did highlight signs of an improving economy: Illinois added more than 6,400 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate is the lowest since February 2009.
Rowell said reauthorizing emergency unemployment is a cost-effective way to help families stay in their homes and put food on their tables. While it appears the economy is turning around, he said, many Illinoisans still are struggling.
"Economic conditions should set when extended unemployment insurance benefits end, not some arbitrary date that was just put in the statute," he said. "I think people forget that this program has expired 12 times in the past and has been reauthorized based off the economic conditions."
The U.S. Senate recently voted for a proposal that would restore federal unemployment benefits for nearly 3 million American workers. House leaders have not scheduled a vote.