Illinois Senate Begins Appropriation Process to Address Growing Unemployment Insurance Fund Debt

SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – Illinois lawmakers are seeking to plug the $4.5 billion hole in the unemployment insurance fund that was created after thousands of people were left jobless earlier in this pandemic.

Bill affects $2 billion of US bailout funds to cover the deficit in the unemployment fund. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), said it was not the final version or the bill amount. She said negotiations were underway between worker and company representatives.

However, the agreed billing 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 off unemployment debts. She also explained that introducing legislation now will “keep all options on the table” as negotiations continue and avoid some legislative delays.

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

However, Republicans say the debt should be fully paid down and replenished so that more unemployment benefits can be paid.

Senate GOP members say 31 states have used ARPA funds to pay off their unemployment debt in full, and they argue Illinois should do the same. They also fear that having $2 billion on the table will influence the negotiations.

“This $2 billion, my friends, is a far cry from the amount of money we need to replenish the fund and continue to grow the fund so that there are benefits to be paid out,” Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris ) noted.

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

The bill passed the Senate by a partisan vote of 33 to 15. It is now heading to the House for consideration.

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John A. Bogar