Illinois – All You Need To Know When You’re Unemployed

Unemployed or not, living in today’s job market, it is always indispensable for you to equip yourself with the know-hows of the unemployment benefits offered in your state. Illinois, like other federal states, has its own department which takes care of unemployed populace and seeks to address their financial problems, either you are a part-time worker or a retired veteran.

Get to know UI Benefits in IL

In the hope to provide as much knowledge on the unemployment insurance (UI) and benefit claims offered in Illinois, we have compiled everything that you should know. Browse through our website for more information on Unemployment Benefits in other states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, etc.

Understanding Unemployment Insurance

Illinois Unemployment Insurance is a state-operated program designed to address the need for replacement of wages at times of emergency – be it health, accident or unemployment. Illinois Department of Employment Security abbreviated as IDES addresses all kinds of needs to those unemployed, only if you are proactive enough to pass through the various steps involved in the procedure, besides looking for jobs. The state also offers unemployment benefits even if you are residing outside of Illinois. However, all these benefits are given only after the claimant has been duly verified of his/her eligibility. And indeed, because of this reason, it is recommended for one to not remain idle after securing the benefit, but to make a persistent effort in finding a new job, now made easier as the department itself assists people for the same. Furthermore, it is expected of you to regularly state your wages, which encompasses part-time working wages and the telling of the reason for your unemployment to the authorities concerned.

All you need to know about the Unemployment Insurance or Benefits are covered by the Illinois Department of Employment Service and to know the specifics like eligibility, procedure for applying UI, read on.

Are You Eligible?

Ensure you have met the following conditions in order to qualify for Illinois unemployment benefits-

  1. Your earnings mustn’t cross the threshold recommended by the IDES. At the time you apply for the Unemployment Benefits, the above can be determined.
    • You were paid $1,600 or more in wages during your base period* for insured work.
    • You were paid a lease of $440 of your base period wages at any time during the base period outside the calendar quarter in which your wages were highest.
      *Base period – The standard or regular base period consists of the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the beginning of your benefit year. There are four calendar quarters, which are January–March, April–June, July–September and October–December
  2. You must be laid off work for no reason of your own which are a voluntary termination of employment, addiction/substance abuse and inefficiency at work. It is advisable that you ascertain as to the exact reason for being laid off, as the adjudicator will call the employer to verify the same. This is after they have recorded your statement through the personal interview by the adjudicator which is usually fixed two weeks from the date of applying for the unemployment benefit.
  3. You should be available/capable of working and actively searching for work.

It is also important to note that you won’t be eligible for unemployment insurance for more than 26 weeks in a year. If you have crossed this limit within a year, then you will no more be eligible for unemployment insurance or weekly benefit.  

How To File Unemployment Insurance?

Remember to gather all the right information and documents that would be required for the application for unemployment insurance. Be ready to answer all the questions for the interview in person and for the phone call. Do not forget to carry a copy of all the documents every time you’ll have to visit Illinois Department of Employment Security Office.



There are three ways to apply for unemployment insurance which are –

  • Applying online

If you are applying online, make sure you have all the below information ready when you login to your account, which are –

  1. Your Social Security Number (SSN) and your name as appeared on your SSN card.
  2. Your identity proof/ID for the purpose of disclosing your weight. Either your Driver license or State ID will do.
  3. Your Social Security Number (SSN) of your dependents (if any) along with the names as mentioned in the card.
  4. Your employers’ (from past 18 months) name, address, contact number, wage records (W-2 form, check stubs), duration of employment, date of separation and reason for separation.
  5. Your report of all the gross wages earned in the past week, both full-time and part-time, if you worked from the Sunday of the week of application. Gross constitutes the earnings before deductions like lodging, meals, merchandise, etc. Also, the gross wages must be reported the week they were earned and not the week they were received. You will be eligible to weekly benefit or partial benefit even if you’ve secured work but that you earn less than the benefit amount mentioned.
  6. Your Records of pension payments
  7. Your Alien Registration information, if you are not a US citizen.
  8. Your Member 4 copy or the DD form 214/215 if you are a recently separated veteran.
  9. Your Standard form 8 and Personnel Action Form 50 if you are separated as a civilian employee working for the federal government.
  • Applying through phone

  1. To file for unemployment insurance through a phone call, contact the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) at (312) 793-5280
  2. Furthermore to enquire on Certification and Benefits Deposit speak to a representative of the Claimant services at 1-800-244-5631/ TTY 1-866-322-8357 (for hearing and speech impaired applicants only)
  3. The Employer’s Service Center can be contacted at 1-800-247-4984
  • Applying in person

To apply for Unemployment Insurance in person, you have to visit your nearest Illinois Department of Employment Security Office and to reach the offices in relation to the unemployment benefits over the telephone, you can contact through the numbers available on our website.

Are You Actively Seeking Work?

A make or break kind of prerogative that most people tend to ignore during the process of filing for an unemployment insurance is to actively seek work. Once your bed is warmed it is the general notion that people forget about their responsibilities and seeking work in an increasingly hostile job market is an effortless addition. Meritocratic America is on the brink of letting the privileged take the mantle to dictate the terms for the rest. Individual skill is highly valued and puts you in a higher platform which ups your job prospects. And to address this problem, we have the state and federal departments lending a hand at educating the populace in the skill sets required to make you a better competitor, one the rest will have to reckon with. Also, worth mentioning is the IllinoisJobLink, a major priority in the Illinois State government’s point of view, which is a meeting place for all the job seekers and employers. Delay no further and make sure you frequently visit government sponsored job-seeking portals. After all, ‘actively seeking a job’ is a major prerogative, an eligibility factor that has a say in the benefit amount you will receive.

How Will You Receive Weekly Benefits?

Since the insurance you are claiming is received on a weekly basis, the Illinois Department of Employment Security doles out a debit card for the insurance claimer. Also, the IDES is making improvements to the card being issued which was a ‘blue debit card from Key Bank’ and is now being replaced with the updated red Debit MasterCard issued by the Chase Bank.

Once you have been certified for your benefits either online or in person, you will receive an envelope enclosing the Debit card. Though you can opt to have the benefit amount deposited to your account, this facility is mostly temporary, that is until you receive the debit card, which should not extend more than two weeks to reach your residence. You will have to log in to your IDES account and fill in the required blanks in order to receive the benefit amount.

As mentioned earlier, the new red debit MasterCard will have to be replaced for those already receiving the benefit through a current blue debit card. And replacement process will commence from June and the deposits to the old card will cease from June 30, after which you can use the card till it reaches ‘zero balance’. With the new card, you can now access your payments 24 hours a day and 7 days a week through both retail Point-Of-Sale (POS) terminals and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). Visit the website of the Chase Bank or read through instructions in the IDES website (however you will receive a letter replete with all the instructions on how to activate the card) to know more about exchanging your old debit card to a new one.  

Are You An Out-Of-State Claimant?

IDES offers opportunities to those shifted to another state temporarily or for reasons of emergency. Even if you were once a resident of Illinois and worked here but shifted to another state after losing a job, you will still be eligible for the benefit. If you are one to find yourself in such a situation, you can always contact the IDES helpline (IDES claimant services) or apply online. Here’s how –

  1. Apply online, for a hassle free, convenient process.
  2. Or you could contact IDES claimant services to help you through the procedures apart from guiding you about the particulars.

Claimant services – (800) 244-5631

Teleservices – (312) 338-4337 (available from 5.30 a.m to 7.30 p.m – Monday to Friday)

You can claim these benefits if you are now residing in any of the states, the district of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands or Canada.

As to the method of receiving payment or the weekly benefits, you will be given a debit card, which will be mailed to you or sent through direct deposits. Payments are made to eligible individuals within the span two business days from the date of certification.

To certify your claim to unemployment benefits online, you must register yourself and if you are calling teleservices, have your PIN (Personal Identification Number) and Social Security number ready to identify yourself. Also, have your current statement of certification available, more so if it is not the first time you are calling. The Gross amount that you are being paid as holiday pay must also be disclosed during the phone call, and hence make sure you have all the above information ready before making the call. Some of the questions normally asked are –

  1. Have you received or will you receive a holiday pay during the two-week duration?
  2. Did you work during the two week period?
  3. During the weeks of your certification, have any of your dependents/spouse and children found a job and reached the age of 18 respectively?
  4. How free/available are you to work in the working days of the week?
  5. Did you actively look for jobs in the past two weeks or since you lost your job?
  6. Did you receive any pension for temporary/permanent disability?
  7. Did you attend school or receive training?
  8. Have you received or will you receive workers’ compensation for a temporary disability?

How To Challenge Denied Benefit Claims?

If you believe your claim is right and was still denied Unemployment Benefits, you can challenge the claim by writing an appeal to the referee by challenging the decree given by the adjudicator. This form can either be downloaded online or can be procured by visiting the IDES office personally. Once you download the application online, you have to print the same and fill in the respective details. If you believe you have the right to claim benefits and fulfill all the required eligibilities, you can file an appeal. A Veteran retired from active duty who has been denied the claim to Unemployment Benefits can apply too.

  1. As a part of Preparing for your Appeal Hearing, write a letter requesting the reconsideration of your claims at Unemployment Benefits within 30 days.
  2. A prepared draft can be found on the website of which you need to fill up the respective details and mail the same to the nearest IDES office-
    Chicago Office
    IDES Appeals Division
    33 S State St, 8th floor
    Chicago IL 60603-2802Springfield Division
    IDES Appeals Division
    607 East Adams, 9th floor
    Springfield, IL 62701
  3. Or mail the request letter to the Claimant services.
  4. If your notice is denied it is immediately sent to the Appeals Division.
  5. You will receive a notice on the date and time of hearing (phone call) when the decision is made as to you are eligible to the Unemployment Benefits.
  6. If you once again want to challenge the decision made at the hearing you can File an Appeal to the Board of Review by writing another letter or using the prepared draft addressed to the Board of Review. You can send this letter to the above Appeals Division or the below Board of Review address –
    Board of Review
    33 S. State St, 9th floor
    Chicago IL 60603-2802

An out-of-State claimant can appeal for denied benefits too since the letter could be downloaded online and sent through a mail. Also, since the hearing is made through a phone call and not a live one, you only have to be prepared on the date and time of phone call, the details of which will be communicated to you through an email.

What’s New?

Some of the new changes made to the unemployment insurance scheme is the mandatory registration of all residents into IDES who are receiving Unemployment Benefits. Applying from July 17th 2016, its objective is to minimize casualties and provide insurance as soon as possible. This will also increase each person’s access into the Illinois JobLink, thus apart from speeding the process of doling out insurance, also seeks to reach out to the jobless, into getting a job. This new policy centres on giving employment than managing the unemployed which is already in place.

Since it provides free job-searches and links employers with people fit for the job, it is no longer a zero-sum game. Both the parties are benefited contrary to the assumption employers having to put up with policy changes. The key to enforcing it efficiently is uploading your resume online after registration. Hence, after registration it is made compulsory to upload your resumes, thus helping employers easily filter people and find what they are looking for.

Keep From Fraudulent Practices

Although people apply for UI with the sole intention of acquiring Weekly benefit amount or insurance, they can unconsciously commit mistakes which can be classified as fraudulent. Also, it is important to remember that though your intentions weren’t to commit a fraud, it will however, not set you apart on the basis of intentions and you will nevertheless end up facing the consequences.

The Do-Nots

  1. Do not go on collecting weekly benefits without informing the authorities of obtaining a new job, be it full time or part time. Though there is a possibility to claim UI benefits when working part time, you must nevertheless keep the IDES tabbed on the changes in your employment’ status quo.
  2. Do not collect weekly benefits if you have been restored to your earlier job.
  3. Do not collect weekly benefits without reporting odd jobs, however less they earn you.
  4. Do not withhold information on the changes in the position or employment status of dependents if  they are employed while you are still collecting benefits including them as your dependents.
  5. Do not collect benefit amount without informing whether your dependent/child has turned 18.

The If-Nots

If you do not follow the aforementioned conditions before collecting your weekly benefits, you could be guilty of disregarding the Illinois State Law and be faced with the following consequences –

  1. You could be asked to pay a hefty sum as fines and penalties.
  2. You could be sentenced to prison.
  3. You could be offset against State and Federal income tax returns.
  4. You could never avail Unemployment Benefits again.

Go Register NOW!

If you are reading this, there is every chance that you may be in dire need of financial assistance and as the days pass by, it will only get tougher to manage the expenses. All the more reason for you to hurry and register now at the IDES website for unemployment benefits. Given the complete transition of the offline process to an online one, you can practically receive your benefits sitting at home as the debit card too is delivered to your mailing address. However, if you would want to know more on the IDES offices in your locality for applying in person or if you’d like to calculate the amount of benefits you may be eligible for, you can find out from our website. We hope to have addressed all the problems or questions that you may have encountered and if more, please leave it in the comments and we will watch your back!


  1. venkat says:

    I lived out side of US for 6 years and now I have no jab and I would like to know if I am qualified for unemployment benefits.

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