COVID-19 Gig Worker Federal Relief -- Illinois delays implementation -- Politics or Incompetence?

Drive for Uber or Lyft?  Freelance writer?  Actor? Business consultant?  Self-employed?   Is your mortgage due? Can’t afford food starting next week?

The state of Illinois has about 18 percent of its workforce in the Gig Economy, according to ADP Research.

On March 27, the federal government passed a 2-trillion dollar stimulus bill that included provisions for the self-employed (gig workers) to collect a special type of unemployment compensation, which would be administered by the state.  This has come about, in part, because various levels of government are stopping gig workers from earning a living due to COVID-19.  There is no date in sight as to when Illinois gig workers may access their benefits.

The state of Illinois is telling gig workers that they have to wait until work with an outside vendor completes the necessary parameters for them to apply.  State Senate Republican Leader, Bill Brady, wrote Governor Pritzker on the issue:

Governor Pritzker,

I am writing to you on behalf of my caucus, and the citizens we represent, who have made hundreds of calls to our offices to express their frustration about their inability to access critical unemployment benefits.

Residents throughout Illinois impacted by the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak are struggling to pay their rent and feed their families. During these unprecedented times, we must do everything we can to ensure they are getting the help they need as soon as possible.

One segment of our population impacted by this economic crisis are those self-employed “gig” workers who, according to ADP Research Institute, make up 18 percent of our workforce. Under the recently signed federal stimulus law, these gig workers will now be eligible for unemployment benefits, and states must modify their websites in order to review these claims. This is most welcome news. However, it is our understanding that this modification to the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s (IDES) website could take months.

Weeks ago, our constituents were told the IDES website would be improved, and access would be enhanced. However, based on what we are hearing from our constituents, delays with the site continue and frustrations continue to mount.

With the addition of gig workers, timely access to this site is even more critical, especially given the fact that we are hearing other states already have a system in place to handle gig claims.

When can we tell our constituents they will be able to apply for these crucial resources?


Bill Brady
Senate Republican Leader


Response from the governor’s press secretary, Jordan Abudayyeh…

This administration is committed to lifting up working families during this crisis. IDES is working around the clock to handle the unprecedented volumes of claims and improvements have been made while the office continues to work through the historic number of claims. The CARES Act created a brand new program for workers who have never participated in the unemployment insurance system. The state has contracted with a vendor to get that new program up and running as soon as possible. If lawmakers have ideas on how to improve the process or expand resources for working families even further we’re happy to work with them.

Looks like plain old bureaucratic process, the thing all of us in Illinois suffer through at all levels of government, but what if there is a political motivation?

Last fall, Illinois decided to study and perhaps follow California’s example of trying to re-classify gig workers as employees of the companies with which they contract.

With eighteen percent of state workers in the gig economy,  Illinois can never be sure that these freelancers are paying their taxes to Illinois standards, because of deductions and the gig workers having to write a check themselves to the state of Illinois, as opposed to W2 employees who have their taxes reliably withdrawn from their payroll checks.

Governor Pritzker is in front of us every day imploring us to be safe and save lives.  Nearly every time he takes a swipe at the federal government for incompetence at not having provided or allowed for the necessary supplies.  In the case of gig workers the federal government has made this money avaialbe but the state is taking its ever sweet time in providing relief to a big part of its working population.  Meanwhile, rents cannot be paid, mortgages met, medicines purchased, food procured.

Is Governor Pritzker playing politics with lives for the sake of future income tax revenue?






Filed under: Covid-19

Tags: Covid-19, Gig workers, Illinois

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