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Question of the day

Friday, Jul 16, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From IRMA, the IMA, Illinois Chamber, NFIB, AGCI, Chicagoland Chamber, NFIB and numerous other business groups

Dear Governor Pritzker:

During the pandemic, states suspended their work search requirements for those who were unemployed and the federal government supplied an extra $300 per week in unemployment insurance benefits. This was an understandable reaction given the pandemic. Recognizing that the worst of the pandemic is behind us and at least 56% of Illinoisans 18 years of age or older are fully vaccinated and 72% having received at least one shot, the Illinois economy is now re-opened.

However, Illinois employers of all types and sizes are struggling to attract needed employees resulting in reduced hours and lost sales. Those lost sales directly impact the budgets of the state and units of local government. Before we lose any more economic ground, now is the time to reinstate normal unemployment insurance operations, including work search requirements, and benefit levels.

In Illinois alone, there are tens of thousands of unfilled jobs. Employers are offering substantially higher wages, employment bonuses and taking other steps to encourage people to return to work. The problem is employers cannot compete with the approximate $35 per hour unemployed workers have received over the last four months as a result of enhanced UI benefits, tax credits, and stimulus payments. Most employers cannot compete with those benefits, which equate to $35 per hour, no matter how much wishful thinking is applied.

In order to remove the artificial brakes being applied to Illinois’ economy, the members of the respective organizations listed below respectfully request the following actions be taken without delay:

    1. Re-start work search requirement. Normally, unemployed workers are required to seek employment while receiving unemployment insurance benefits. This was suspended during the pandemic when jobs were not readily available and there was a greater risk of hospitalization or death from the virus. By any measure, that is no longer the case. More than 100,000 jobs are currently listed on the state’s own job site and that is far from inclusive of all the jobs available. UI benefits were never intended to be a permanent replacement for gainful employment. Even President Biden stated this should be the case in remarks he made on May 10th and subsequently directed USDOL to work with states to re-start the work search requirement. To-date, 47 states have taken this common-sense step. Now is the time for Illinois to do likewise.

    2. End the PUA benefit. The $300 federal supplement made sense during the pandemic when jobs were not widely available. As previously noted, tens of thousands of jobs are now widely available.

    3. Restore the UI Trust Fund to solvency. With $4.5 - $5 billion of ARPA funds remaining, Illinois should utilize those funds to return the Illinois Trust Fund to solvency. Without such an action, employers face yet another substantial tax increase and employees a substantial benefit cut. Neither can afford it. It has been estimated that as much as half of all UI benefits nationally were paid fraudulently. We know Illinois was a primary target. Employers and employees should not be required to pay for that fraud and utilization of the ARPA monies is an appropriate and responsible use as it pays down debt, saves the state tens of millions in annual interest payments, and protects employers and employees. Guidance from the U.S Department of the Treasury clearly allows and encourages the use of ARPA monies for this purpose stating as follows “… recipients may make deposits into the state account of the Unemployment Trust Fund up to the level needed to restore the pre-pandemic balances of such account as of January 1, 2020, or to pay back advances received for the payment of benefits between January 27, 2020 and the date that the Interim Final Rule is published”. Importantly, S&P signaled they would look favorably upon Illinois if they utilized the remaining ARPA monies to repay part of the monies borrowed from the federal government for unemployment insurance. Finally, state revenues continue to exceed all expectations. Assuming spending restraint, the combination of ARPA monies and state revenues provide more than enough resources to meaningfully address the UI Trust Fund as well as other debt reductions.

We thank you for the attention we know you will give this request and the timely actions we believe you will take to re-ignite the Illinois economy for the benefit of all.

The governor has repeatedly said that a big part of the problem right now is that parents can’t find child care. He seemed open to the concept of paying bonuses to nudge people back to work, but the Illinois Chamber voiced staunch opposition

“Paying people to return to the productive workforce is something that is not only going to create perverse incentives, but second, it’s really going to undermine small business confidence in their government,” he said. “Basic question: ‘I’ve got a job at a good wage. Why should I be paying higher taxes to pay someone to take my job?’ It’s just the wrong approach and we hope that the governor doesn’t go that route.”

* The Question: Do you think Illinois should re-start its work search requirement for unemployed residents and end the PUA benefit, and/or pay workers bonuses to go back to work, or just let it be as-is? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…

free polls


  1. - Seats - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:11 pm:

    Almost every state that decided to end the PUA early did so while giving about a full months notice.

    At this point a full months notice would put us at 8/16/21. Just doesn’t seem to be productive to change the rules simply to eliminate it 2 weeks earlier than scheduled.

    Additionally 9/4 deadline gets all of these parents to the back to school finish line and largely eliminates a lot of the childcare issues.

    My family runs multiple small businesses and they are going through the same troubles right now, but to end it abruptly seems like it will do more harm than good.

  2. - Leap Day William - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:19 pm:

    I selected “none of the above”, but my real answer is keep PUA and re-start the work search requirement. Nudge those who are supposedly just sitting on the sidelines into work and encourage those whose jobs have not yet come back to be prepared that they may never come back.

  3. - tiredofIT - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:23 pm:

    Restart work search and end PUA, too many help wanted signs out there now. No bonuses to go back to work unless bonuses are to be given to those who worked the whole time as well.

  4. - nadia - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:27 pm:

    Restart work search requirement and let PUA continue until it’s current expiration date.

  5. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:29 pm:

    Oh look, rich right wing biz types are trying to rip away temporary government help for the poor and middle class while permanently feasting on Trump tax cuts.

    None of the above.

  6. - Homebody - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:29 pm:

    Unemployment is barely poverty wages itself. If you as an employer can’t offer a better option to would be employees, that is a “you” issue.

  7. - Friendly Bob Adams - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:32 pm:

    I’m an older guy and have seen a lot of self-serving stuff put out by employer groups. This is no different. They fully expect that state power will be used to keep their advantage over workers, and are shocked when it doesn’t happen.

    The current environment is a rare situation where workers have some bit of advantage. Wages are going up as supply-and-demand says they should. But then any minute of the day the bubble can burst…

  8. - Back to the Future - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:37 pm:

    Agree with Gov. that funding child care is a very big problem and has had a very negative impact on single mothers. Being sensitive to this issue, particularly where the schools were closed, makes a lot of sense.
    Number 3 on the various groups list is probably the second biggest issue that impacts our state’s efforts to get the economy back on track. The fund is close to insolvency and if that expected shortfall falls only on employers it will, of course, have a very negative impact on hiring. Using the federal dollars Illinois is in line to receive to make a substantial contribution to the fund makes sense.
    In terms of just cutting unemployment benefits across the Board is really nothing but a “talking point” and will hurt some groups like unemployed Moms way beyond any small, if any, benefit to the states economy. In basically asking them to do something that is just not currently possible to do is really a pretty dumb thing to do.

  9. - Edyrdologist - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:43 pm:

    Pay people bonuses to go back to work. CNBC had an article recently where the chief economist for Indeed (the job search portal) said searches have remained flat in states where they chucked the federal unemployment boost early.

    The issue doesn’t seem to be the benefits, but rather that-after the pandemic-many people understandably don’t want to go back to low-wage service jobs with terrible working conditions. You’re also seeing more and more stories come out about customers becoming more rude and abusive towards service workers in the aftermath of the pandemic.

    Like Friendly Bob said, this is a rare situation where workers have an advantage and are using it to try to improve the state of their working lives. Just because capital wants to discipline labor into accepting pre-pandemic working conditions doesn’t mean the government has to help them do it.

  10. - Rabid - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:44 pm:

    None, you can’t rewrite benefits

  11. - TheInvisibleMan - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 1:57 pm:

    None of the above.

    Pay workers more, and they will be happy to work for you.

    The pandemic has caused a lot of societal shifts. Some won’t be evident for years. Some are already evident only in the effects taking place in other areas - like this claimed shortage of workers.

    A lot of people now value themselves and their lives more than they did before. That’s a new requirement any employer is going to have to now overcome to convince someone to work for them, again in general. It’s the employers who have to adjust to the new reality now, not the employees.

    I wonder if these groups also sent out letters to their members stating they should pay workers more? Just kidding - I don’t wonder that at all. I know it hasn’t happened.

  12. - Bruce( no not him) - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:02 pm:

    If workers are in short supply, perhaps increasing wages will lure them back. I’m not convinced that attempting to starve them out is a valid path to a workforce.

  13. - Female business owner - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:24 pm:

    “Pay workers more, and they will be happy to work for you.”

    Competing against $35/hour to stay on unemployment will close most businesses.

  14. - The Doc - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:28 pm:

    None of the above. These biz groups are telling on themselves such that the PUA - the equivalent of about $15k for an entire year - is keeping hordes of workers on the sidelines. Spare me with this nonsense.

    It’s absolute bunk and should be treated as such.

  15. - TheInvisibleMan - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:29 pm:

    — Competing against $35/hour —

    You might want to look into how this group came up with that all-encompassing estimate.

    — will close most businesses. —

    Most? I’d like to see the data used to arrive at this conclusion.

  16. - Art Grad - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:40 pm:

    None of the above. I work retail, I just left Higher Ed as a T.A. I know a good few people who will never go back to food service because the abuse isn’t worth the pittance you get. I’m looking for full time work that isn’t service industry, which is a little harder. I worked through the whole of the pandemic and will I wish I had made as much as my friends on unemployment, I don’t enyy them, I looked at my employer and wondered why they could only pay me so much for a specialized role that required at least an AA, if not a Bachelor’s.

  17. - Commissar Gritty - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:46 pm:

    Did anybody else catch that these jokers can’t even get the program name correctly? All these high brow business chambers and they can’t do two seconds of googling to learn that PUA has nothing to do with the extra $300/wk.

    PUA = Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Unemployment Insurance for the many, many Americans hurt by our country’s anti-labor laws and forced to work 1099 / gig economy / independent contractors (see also: no benefits, lousy pay), because these people would have been penniless during the pandemic. They did not qualify for normal unemployment insurance.

    PEUC = Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, this is the extra $300.

    Before anyone accuses me of being pedantic, I’m not the one advocating for tons of at risk people to return to minimum wage jobs. If they’re going to make these claims, ask one of your unpaid interns to google your terms first. Sorry not sorry.

  18. - Just Another Anon - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:50 pm:

    If the issue is affordable child care, I have less issues with subsidies to child care business and/or families with child care expenses. Some, but not all, of this problem will dissipate when schools return in the fall. I’d push a short window, hyper targeted program out ASAP to try to free up the markets.

  19. - Cool Papa Bell - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:51 pm:

    Some combo. You need to have people looking for work. You can’t have that habit broken for people. It will be really hard to start back up.

    But keep the benies coming in. Way to late to pull them back now and it won’t make a bit of difference anyway. Seeing that its almost tied to the return of school its a good lifeline to those who are waiting for that moment.

    I’m all for a bonus but it seems hard to track and pay.

    What I’ve always wanted to see is basically what the $250/$300 federal child tax credit is going to do.

    Let’s not yank support or payments for folks who go back to work and earn a low wage. I’ve never understood why something like SNAP goes away after earning a little bit of money. Tie continued food assistance to keeping a job. The power in supplying $50 bucks a week in food for a working poor mom or dad - massive. They will keep that job for extra money.

    There is way more to why workers are being found for some industries - but as those folks in the release talk about all the need to find workers. I wonder how much PPP money went to their members and where those dollars really wound up. Lots of those dollars just padded accounts for owners of those businesses. But who cares about all that.

  20. - Female Business Owner - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:53 pm:

    “PUA - the equivalent of about $15k for an entire year ”

    That’s on top of unemployment benefits.

  21. - working man - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 2:56 pm:

    Eliminate PUA benefit and start up work search requirement. What to do about left over money? Pay (or Reward) those who actually went to work during pandemic…that won’t happen but, but there is NO need for PUI supplemental income when the state is Completely open.

  22. - Advocate - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 3:21 pm:

    The feds require 30 days notice for ending the extended UI benefits which are PEUC not PUA as someone else noted above. They can’t even get the name right.

    But most of all terrible ideas on the merits. The benefits expire early September. No point in a cutoff mid August. As for the Trust Fund we have $5b left of federal money and IRMA and company want it all spent on this. Another terrible idea. Better to negotiate with the feds over repayment terms and tax employees to pay. That is the system. It’s called UI. Unemployment insurance. When people use it the Trust Fund is depleted and employers are responsible for replenishing it. These folks are trying to get out of their responsibility and pass it onto the rest of us.

  23. - Advocate - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 3:22 pm:

    Tax employers to pay.

  24. - Newcomer - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 3:26 pm:

    Wow this letter may need some fact checking…

    Not sure where the $35 per hour came from, although it looks like they factored in tax credits and stimulus payments, not just UI benefits (”…over the last four months as a result of enhanced UI benefits, tax credits, and stimulus payments.”). UI benefits are still calculated based off the individual’s prior earnings. If they are eligible for the max amount of benefits, that means their previous wages were well over that and one would imagine they’d like to return to those earning levels. Therefore, it is not likely everyone on UI is even receiving the max benefits. I would also be interested so see how much money these same employers received in government aid during the pandemic in the form of forgivable business loans, tax credits, etc. if they plan to hold that against their workers.

    Also PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) is an unemployment program designed for self-employed or independent contractors who do not normally qualify for any UI benefits. Without PUA, this group of workers would have nothing. I think what they are referring to as the “$300 federal supplement” is FPUC (Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation) which provides the extra $300 per week to those that are eligible for benefits.

    In June, many claimants received emails from IDES indicating they needed to register for the Illinois Job Links which tracks their work search… it looks like they have reinstated the work search requirement. The exception may be for workers who were furloughed due to COVID-19 - However, if folks are not returning to work, they could lose their benefits anyways.

  25. - Frank talks - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 3:31 pm:

    $35/hr on unemployment? That’s almost $73k/year on a 40 hour work week. So you’re telling me folks are making $73k/yr on unemployment?
    Offer better pay and benefits.

  26. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 3:44 pm:

    Wow, “Restart” is running away with this.

    Here’s my take;

    I’m suppose to “believe” the $35/hour?

    Here’s what I totally believe…

    The reality of very low wages and limited child care are so real…

    .. if they don’t phony up the numbers… how can we get people to resign themselves to low wages again?

    It’s a fallacy to get people to “hate” workers… for wanting a wage to live.

    Like their guy Rauner, the dishonesty to facts is more about hurting workers than saving businesses.

  27. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 3:46 pm:

    Voted… “combo”

    The distortion is real, the angst is also real.

    Wanting to keep working people in place is most real of all


  28. - 4 percent - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 4:18 pm:

    IL average UI benefit (no kids/spouse) - $471
    Enhanced federal benefit - $300

    $771 = $19.25 per hour (40 hour week)

    Add in the federal stimulus payments, no income taxes on the first $10,000, etc and you get over $30 per hour very quickly.

    Now add in the additional $3600 per kid child tax credit and its even higher…

  29. - Commisar Gritty - Friday, Jul 16, 21 @ 4:34 pm:

    The $35/hr unemployment number can be thoroughly debunked. The bill itself states that the intention was to pay people the equivalent of $15/hr.

    Keep in mind that those signing this thing probably make $3500/hr while paying their employees as little as they are legally allowed to. Utter drivel

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Pritzker says state has settled labor dispute at migrant tent city
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