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

Author : William

Updated : June 11th, 2019

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.

Know About Unemployment Insurance In IL

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 in IL?

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.

Unemployment Insurance In IL


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!

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  1. I applied for unemployment on 8-1 and was approved. I received my letter of eligibility and debit card about a week ago. I did not file my intitial bi weekly claim because I missed the deadline by 1 day (didn’t realize they would be closed on Saturday). When I logged on it said I would have to reopen a claim because mine had been closed. I filled out the online form to deactivate the claim. My question is this: will I have another waiting week? And will unemployment have to contact my employer all over again to verify my wages and go through the entire process all over again or will they just reopen the claim with a new date window to file?

  2. Lost my job in 10/2018 due to plant closure, collected vacation and severance pay. Opened a claim in 1/2019. Got an on the job training job through career link in 5/2019 worked one week and became very sick and was off for two weeks VA could not find anything wrong but gave me medication for the symptoms and an excuse to return to work, prior to returning got a call from my recruiter at career link telling me the position was filled so i did not return. Reopened my claim, a few weeks later got a letter informing me the employer had appealed and said i did not return, had a hearing and the employer did not show but i lost and got a 2500.00 over payment. Got a temp job through an agency but have only worked 4 days in two weeks. Reopened my claim and was told i need to earn 2604.00 from current employer before it can be opened, did i do something wrong? Still applying for work but am days away from losing everything, need income to pay bills. PLEASE HELP

    1. Rodney,

      Your eligibility to claim UI benefits depends on multiple factors including monetary eligibility. If you’ve been officially told about the shortage of earnings, there’s nothing much one can do. If you’re still confident of winning the appeal, please make a strong case.

      1. I live in KY but my base wages were from earnings in GA when I lived there. I’ve exhausted my benefits in KY. Am I able to now file through GA since my earnings through 10/18 came from there?

        1. Dee,

          As much as I am aware, Unemployment Insurance is a one time cycle. Please call the Unemployment Office in GA for more.

  3. The hours at work have been cut due to lack of business for every department.
    So all full-time positions are now part-time.
    How do I file for partial unemployment?
    The only options I see (in Texas) are for full unemployment.

    1. Eric,

      You should be able to claim partial UI benefits. Please consider applying online until full hours are restored.

    1. William,

      If everything goes well, it should not take more than 7-10 business days (waiting week). Please call the Claims Center for more.

  4. I was employed by a VA company for 5 years, my contract ended yesterday (07/31/19), however, I worked remotely for those 5 years and live in FL, which state do I apply to for my unemployment benefits?

    1. Oscar,

      Please check with your employer if they remitted UI taxes into the system. Contract workers are generally not eligible.

        1. Oscar,

          In that case, please go ahead and apply if your employer remitted UI taxes into the system.

    2. You apply in Virginia…however, I worked seasonally and they used a ‘quarter’ that was empty, so even though my employer paid in, I only got a 1/3 of what I should have received. Figured that out later :/ They will also question WHY you aren’t able and available to work IN Virginia. They froze my account for about a month.

  5. I worked 37 years with the same company in Texas. On July 2nd of 2018, I was let go due to workforce reduction. I signed up for benefits several months later and now have drawn my 26 weeks of benefit. Is there any program currently open in Texas or federally that will extend additional money while job seeking?

    1. Lonnie,

      The E.U.C(Emergency Unemployment Compensation) remains expired. There is no extension available. Please inquire further with the labor authorities in your state by calling them.

  6. I have been an employee of my company for 34 yrs. My position is being eliminated but I have been offered another position for less money. It is a much more physical job that I am not sure I can perform well. I am 75. If I try to fulfill the position and cannot do it, will I still be able to get benefits if I quit? They want me to try it for a couple of weeks to see if I am strong enough and if I can afford the cut in pay.

    1. Lynda,

      I suggest you call the Unemployment Office to find out about eligibility before making a decision on continuation.

      1. I recently lost my job..i was late for work and they took me off the schedule..never told me i was fired..didnt ask for uniforms back. Another cook was andd has been late for work and he didnt get taken off the schedule.can i still get unemployment?

        1. Kandie,

          Please note UI benefits are only offered to claimants who lose employment due to no fault of their own. You can call the Unemployment Office for clarification.

  7. Are there any training benefits or programs that will pay for an advanced degree, such as a PhD which is needed to become more employable?

    1. There are multiple training programs administered by the Labor Department in each state. For more info, please call visit the official website of the Unemployment Office.

  8. I’m about to exhaust my Unemployment benefits. I was laid off from my first job and
    found employment then I lost my job and became unemployed again. I applied for benefits and have have almost exhausted my benefits but have not found employment. Can I file for an extension?

    1. Deanna,

      The E.U.C(Emergency Unemployment Compensation) remains expired. There is no extension available. Please inquire further with the labor authorities in your state by calling them.

  9. After reading your article it’s still not clear to me about requirements surrounding moving to another state and completing/continuing to collect. I have 8 weeks eligibility left, I am moving from MA to FL. The end of your article says: “Since it’s all virtual (online), you may still consider the option of continuing your claims from the base state even if you move to a different one until completion. As a responsible claimant, it’s your duty to inform the base state about your movement to ensure there are no hassles in the near future.”

    So it sounds like even once I am in new state I am eligible to continue to collect from my base state. I can just continue to do my required weekly job search and reporting to and filing in my base state (I do it via phone call-in). No need to complicate things by doing some crazy state transfer of benefits. Benefits also done via direct bank deposit and no need to change anything. Do I even need to tell my base state I am now living in a new state? Why? Thank you.

    1. Paul,

      For the ease of understanding, each state has its specific rules and laws with regard to administering Unemployment Benefits. It might be an obligation for a claimant to inform about the movement. For clarification, please call the Unemployment Office and speak to a representative.

  10. I was recently fired from my work 25-June-2019/due to me not meeting their “standards/ expectations” i submitted my UE claim on 28-June and have not received any pay as of today, 19-July. The status is currently “adjudication in progress,” my question is, should i be worried this will be denied? I read the FAQ on the UE webpage and it said only a couple applications require the adjudication process. How long does this process usually take to get the final answer of whether I’m denied or approved? The website stated it susuallt takes ~25 days for the adjudication process, does this mean once that’s done then i still have to wait another 2-6 weeks for final processing after? THANK YOU SOO MUCH to whomever is able to provide me with some answers/ input.

    ** this is my first time ever being fired or having to file for unemployment so i really have nooooo idea what is standard or normal or whatever. I feel like an idiot with my simple questions but it would bring me so much relief having them answered, truly

    1. Talia,

      I can understand your reason for the anxiety. Adjudication is a fact-finding process where both the claimant and the employer will get an opportunity to present their case. During this process, make sure to produce supporting documents that amplify your stance. For all you know, the adjudication can be a lengthy process.

      Best Wishes!

  11. I was permanently severanced from my job due to a Co. Reorg & received my last severance pay last week. I called UE & was told that I should now do my application online since I will no longer be getting funds & still without a job & that this coming Sunday regardless of knowing if I will or will not get benefits yet that I should still file a weekly claim in case of UE back pay.
    So my question is, do I still have to report 4 jobs applied to within this week, even if I do not know if I will be approved/denied for benefits until possibly next week anyway?

    1. Lynda,

      You should continue to report the job applications as long as you’ve been asked to do so. There will be a “Waiting Period” and the first payment will take about 7-10 days after which they’ll flow much quicker. Please call the Claims Center for clarification.

  12. I tried to transfer from one state to another. When I left Montana I was told there would be no problem transferring. When I arrived in North Carolina I had trouble reaching the area manager by phone. When he finally called me back he said to meet him for lunch to discuss when and where I would be working. He did not show up for lunch. Then he never returned any of my calls. I went PA to visit a friend a few weeks later and tried there. I met with the hiring manager and was told there should not be a problem doing the transfer since I was still in the system. I called the store a few times and they said it was still pending. Then I was terminated without even a phone call. Am I eligible for unemployment and if so do I file in Montana or North Carolina. I still have a Montana drivers license but I am living in NC.

    1. Stacey,

      As long as you were unemployed involuntarily, you should be able to claim UI benefits. Please consider applying.

  13. I have worked for 32+ years and recently have become unable to work due to health reasons, so I have had to resign from my job. I have contacted SS and will be able to apply for disability but it will take awhile to process. Can I apply for unemployment benefits? I live in WV.

    1. Sandra,

      UI benefits are only extended to claimants who lose their employment due to involuntary reasons. Please reach out to the Unemployment Office for more.

  14. I had to quit my job at Walmart in Fairmont West Virginia and moved back to my home state ky, I’ve got a son with drug problems and 3 older sisters that are not doing so well in health cause of their age. I didn’t understand about the transfer part they had at Walmart that I could put a date when I could start back because of my car problems I thought when I left I had to go in like in s few days, I’ve applied here at Walmart in Winchester ky 40391 two times already plus dollar store, speedway, truck stop, bp, a few other places it’s been going on 7 months without a job I live with my son and its getting harder on him paying rent and utilities and food, not to mention our personal hygiene stuff I really need help I have no income coming in to help him and his wife out I get foodstamps and Medicaid I was praying I could qualify for unemployment PLEASE HELP!!!

    1. Vicky,

      I can understand your situation. Unfortunately, UI benefits are only extended to claimants who lose employment due to involuntary reasons. Please call the Unemployment Office for further clarification.

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