stadelman 11132019HAO 0379ROCKFORD – A law passed by State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) could be used to ease the pain for businesses and employees during the tough economic times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also allow Illinois to take advantage of millions of dollars in federal funding designed to reimburse states for their work share programs. However, former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration never wrote the rules needed to implement the law.

The law changed how unemployment benefits are paid in Illinois, potentially reducing layoffs and improving state finances. It created "work-share" benefits, which are meant to assist struggling employers, allowing them to temporarily reduce employee hours rather than lay off workers. At the same time, workers can collect partial unemployment compensation while staying on the job part-time. This program would also help the state save money by not having to pay full benefits for employees drawing from unemployment.

"The value of work-share cannot be over-emphasized," Stadelman said. "In this uncertain time, employees who otherwise face layoffs would gain a sense of security, and businesses would avoid having to let skilled workers go."

Research from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute estimate it could prevent up to 124,000 in COVID-19 related layoffs in the state, and would also save state over $1 billion dollars in unemployment insurance payments. 

According to Frank Manzo of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, the federal government will fully reimburse any state for their work share program. “Under the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, the federal government is, with some stipulation, fully reimbursing states for their work share programs,” Manzo said in an article from April 7. “It is free money for the states that currently have these programs.”

 “Businesses get to keep already-trained employees on staff, and employees get to keep their jobs while collecting partial benefits until they return to work full-time,” Stadelman said. 

Similar laws are in place in 29 other states. Under the law, Illinois would offer partial benefits when a business cuts hours for at least 10% of its staff and shares the remaining work among affected employees.

At last Thursday's news conference Gov. JB Pritzker said he supports the workforce. Stadelman is now urging the Pritzker administration to write the rules needed for his work share measure to go into full effect to assist businesses and employees during this trying time.