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Unemployed Chicago residents will see benefits shrink by $600 a week without pandemic relief package
For more than 10 years, it seemed like Gerardo Reyes never took a break from his job at a small printing press in Chicago unless it was a holiday.
Even with news about the increasing cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, he thought his job was secure and the business would stay afloat like it did during the 2007 recession. But it’s now been 18 weeks since Reyes was laid off from Rohner Press after it temporarily closed because of the pandemic.
He is among thousands of people in Illinois who could see their weekly unemployment benefits shrink unless Congress extends the COVID-19 federal pandemic-related unemployment compensation that has given workers an extra $600 a week of unemployment insurance — part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law March 27.
“I went from being crucial and very essential to nonessential and unemployed,” said Reyes, 42, who’s worked at the press since he graduated from college. “That was a reality check, that even when you think [you] have a guaranteed job, to knowing that anything can happen.”
This is the last week that workers like Reyes, of Little Village, can file a claim to receive the additional $600, which has been available for those who sought unemployment insurance from March 29 to July 25. The U.S. Senate continues working on an additional relief package, which could be split into several bills. U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia told Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria” that nearly 70% of people on unemployment received more than they did from their regular wages.
“It was important to do something substantial as the economy was being closed,” Scalia said on the Fox program. “But we’re in a different place. So I don’t see $600 as continuing.”
In Illinois, more than 600,000 people sought unemployment benefits earlier this month, according to data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The unemployment rate in Illinois is 14.6%, while the national unemployment rate is 11.1%. A person without dependents could receive up to $1,084 a week in Illinois, but that may drop to $484 a week by next week, according to IDES.
Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, said the $600 benefit didn’t stop people from returning to work, pointing out that the unemployment rate has not grown as much as expected. But the extra $600 did give people the ability to refuse unsafe working conditions.
“It did what it was supposed to do —…
Read More: Afternoon Edition: July 23, 2020