Dear friends,


I’m writing to update you on efforts the state is taking to expand unemployment and to bolster the system for processing applications. Unemployment claims are at an unprecedented high, and I am in contact with the Illinois Dept. of Employment Security to keep up to date on the latest information to help you file a claim if you need to.


Yesterday, IDES spoke with lawmakers on some of the issues that the department has had with the massive influx of applications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deputy Governor Dan Hynes and IDES Director Thomas Chan hosted the call.


Director Chan spoke about the process of applying for regular unemployment insurance (UI). To briefly recap, for a person to be eligible for UI:

  • They must be unemployed through no fault of their own.
  • They must be actively seeking work.


Due to the closure of offices, applications are handled via telephone or online application. After filing an application, an applicant is assigned an initial certification date and the applicant must certify that they were unemployed. Recertification must be completed every other week after that initial certification. Also, claims can be backdated as long as IDES knows when your last date of work was.


Next, we discussed the new federal programs under the CARES Act, the coronavirus stimulus package recently passed by Congress. The three programs are known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

  • FPUC- provides an additional $600 each week in federally funded benefits until the week ending July 25, 2020. This program has been implemented and payments are being made.
  • PEUC- provides an additional 13 weeks’ worth of federal funded benefits to those who have exhausted the initial 26 weeks. This will be implemented by next week.
  • PUA- provides 100% federally funded UI for those who do not normally receive UI including independent contractors and those not monetarily eligible (churches, church employees, those who didn’t earn money in the base period). This will be implemented by the week of May 11th.


Director Chan discussed why there have been delays on the PUA system, the unemployment for independent, gig economy, and contract workers. First and foremost, independent contractors are advised to apply now, which is a change from previous news on this. Those applicants have to be denied traditional unemployment to be eligible for the PUA program.


Part of the delay was due to the fact hundreds of pages worth of federal guidance for the PUA program was received just eight days ago, and the unemployment system that IDES uses was originally designed to exclude independent contractors. As a result, IDES has had to design a separate method to look at tax returns of those applicants who are independent contractors.


Next, Director Chan talked about how Illinois is handling the high amount of funds needed and the solvency of funding for unemployment. The good news: Illinois in in good shape currently, even with the increase in payouts. He said if our state fund were to become underfunded as a result, (as it did during the Great Recession), we would be able to borrow money from the federal government at little to no interest, or to issue bonds.


I am determined to keep you up to date as new information about unemployment becomes available, and will communicate further as soon as we know more.


Join me for a virtual town hall tonight at 7 p.m.

Tonight I will join U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman for a virtual town hall event to speak about coronavirus response at all levels of government. I hope you’ll join me for some important information and submit questions. The event will be available through a Facebook Live event, which you can find at the the 48th Ward Facebook Page at 7 p.m. tonight.


Volunteers Needed at the Lakeview Pantry

Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit the city, visitors to Lakeview Pantry, Chicago's largest food pantry, including all of the Pantry's food programs (physical sites, Online Market and Home Delivery) have increased by over 80%. To help keep up with demand, and offer a safe space for volunteers to help sort and pack food, the Pantry will be setting up and managing a temporary satellite food distribution center on the main concourse at Wrigley Field. They are in need of more volunteers to meet demand. Visit to learn more and sign up. Can't volunteer? Consider making a donation to help those in need.



Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

SNAP benefits – food assistance for families that need help – will increase in April and May due to COVID-19. If you are already receiving benefits, you do not need to make any changes in order to be eligible for this increase. If you are having trouble affording food and believe you may be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, you can create an account here or call 1-800-843-6154.


To see if you and your family would qualify, visit the Illinois Dept. of Human Services website here to use their calculator.


Between April 8 and April 20, all eligible SNAP recipients will see their first additional funds if they are not currently receiving the maximum benefit. Additional funds are intended to help Illinoisans obtain food and support for their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The maximum SNAP benefit amounts will be implemented for April and May, but it is not known at this time whether these extended maximum payments will continue beyond May. 


Increased benefits will be automatically loaded onto SNAP recipients’ Link cards, and there is no need for anyone to re-apply, to visit an office, or to call. All new applications authorized in April will also receive the maximum allotment for their household size.


Update from Swedish Hospital

Swedish Hospital reports it will institute a drive-up COVID-19 testing site in an effort to keep the community safe by removing the need to come inside the hospital building. Swedish Hospital’s plan is to begin with 50 tests a day starting April 8, with those seeking tests requiring a referral from a Swedish Hospital doctor. The hospital is exploring plans to expand that prerequisite to be a referral from any doctor, depending on the success of these initial tests. As always, if you believe you are displaying COVID-19 systems, contact your doctor by phone to determine if you should be tested and how to go about doing so.




Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

As the Census bureau takes its 2020 count, the questionnaire has never been easier to complete — whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker.


The information you provide will impact your community every day — from influencing highway planning to determining how money is allocated to public school programs.


By now, most of you should have received mail from the U.S. Census Bureau. The letter contains your household’s Census ID number to be used when filling out the census online at


Simply go to the website, click the “start questionnaire” button on the right side of the screen and answer the questions. It should take no more than 10 minutes.


Would you rather respond by phone or mail? No problem — a paper questionnaire will be sent to your home soon if you have yet to respond online.


The census determines congressional representation, helps determine how federal funds flow into states and provides information that will impact your community for the next decade.


Please take time to help shape the future. Your response matters.


If you have any questions, please reach out to my office at (773) 769-1717.



Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

Yesterday the Governor announced he is extending the Stay at Home order through the month of April. I appreciate that our leader is following the advice of epidemiologists and health care professionals, and understand his desire to have folks stay home to save lives. It is challenging on many fronts, so please reach out if you have suggestions on ways we can assist individuals and families that are faring poorly during this pandemic.


As COVID-19 has spread across the country, other states have followed Illinois’ lead by limiting crowds, closing nonessential businesses, and instituting shelter-in-place orders.


To address the uncertainty and instability many Americans are facing during this outbreak, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides assistance to hospitals, nonprofits, individuals, and businesses.


If you are wondering about what the CARES Act means for you and your community, here’s some information that may help you navigate the legislation:


How will the CARES Act help individuals and families?

  • Individuals who earn less than $75,000 annually will receive a direct payment of $1,200, plus an additional $500 for every qualifying child age 16 or under. Married couples who file a joint return and earn less than $150,000 are eligible for up to $2,400 plus an additional $500 for every qualifying child age 16 or under.
  • Eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week on top of state unemployment benefits to cover lost wages. Part-time, self-employed, and gig-economy workers are newly eligible for benefits.
  • States will receive $3.5 billion in Child Care Development Block Grants to help provide child care to health care workers, first responders, and other essential employees.
  • Federal student loan payments will be suspended until Sept. 30.


What about protections for health care workers and first responders?

  • Over $120 billion in assistance will go to hospitals and health agencies to help them cover COVID-19 expenses, replenish life-saving supplies, and purchase tests.


Will the CARES Act support local and state governments?

  • State and local governments will receive $150 billion to pay for new expenses related to COVID-19. The CARES Act also doubles the amount of FEMA funding available to state governments, local governments, and nonprofits.


What kind of benefits will schools receive?

  • Schools across the country—including colleges and universities—will receive over $30 billion in emergency support.


Will businesses get relief?

  • Small businesses and non-profits will have access to $350 billion in forgivable loans to help them retain employees and pay for expenses like rent, mortgages, and utilities.
  • The Small Business Administration is offering $10 billion in emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief to local business owners. SBA has also established the Debt Relief Program to cover six months of interest payments for small businesses with existing loans.


Will my unemployment insurance be affected by this payment?

The Illinois Department of Employment Security explains how this relates to your unemployment insurance here, including details on additional money those on unemployment insurance will receive, as well as a new, temporary program to help people like self-employed workers, freelancers, and independent contractors are not normally subject to unemployment taxes.


If you have other questions about the CARES Act, I encourage you to read this summary from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means.


The COVID-19 outbreak is bigger than Illinois—it’s a nationwide crisis. When we follow recommendations from our top health experts by washing our hands, keeping our distance from others, and staying home as much as possible, we are protecting our fellow Illinoisans and our fellow Americans from this illness.


Updates and guidance on the COVID-19 crisis are available 24/7 from the Illinois Department of Health or at the state’s dedicated COVID-19 response website,


And as always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office with questions and concerns. My staff is working remotely, but we are still responding to calls and emails. You can contact us at (773) 769-1717 or through my website here.


Stay safe and healthy.



Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

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