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Missouri and Illinois ease unemployment benefit requirements
By Lauren Harris on April 2, 2020 at 10:45 AM

Unemployment spelled on wooden tilesAs claims for unemployment rise, Missouri and Illinois have eased the typical restrictions for unemployed workers to obtain benefits. Coupled with the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which is being administered by the states, both employers and employees are seeing some relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In Missouri, the Department of Employment Security (DES) under the authority of Missouri EO20-4, advised that for employees who have been terminated or laid off due to business events resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic: (1) the requirement that employees actively search for work in order to receive benefits is suspended; and (2) the requirement that employees must have a week of unemployment before receiving benefits is suspended. Importantly, DES is looking at each situation on a case-by-case basis, and an individual who is unable to work because of illness, quarantine or school closures, even if work is available, may be eligible for benefits.

With respect to employers, DES is waiving charging COVID-19 related claims on employers’ unemployment insurance accounts, which will help employers avoid negative impact on their payroll tax rate. DES has also extended the first-quarter employer Contribution and Wage payment due date to June 1, 2020. However, Contribution and Wage reports are still due by April 30, 2020.

DES also provides a way for employers to file a mass claim for their employees when the employer has a shutdown that affects 10 or more employees and the layoff is due to a lack of work. If an employer wants to avoid layoff, DES also has a work-share program for qualified employers.


Illinois has also suspended certain qualification requirements for individuals seeking unemployment benefits because they were terminated or laid off for COVID-19 related reasons. Specifically, individuals do not have to register with a work placement agency, but they must be ready and willing to return to work when it becomes available. Individuals can also file a claim as soon as they are no longer physically working, as the waiting period to submit an application has been suspended.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has stressed that it is striving to maintain flexibility in providing benefits to individuals impacted by workload reductions. For example, if a worker is employed off and on with the same employer, such as during a furlough that is two weeks on and two weeks off, the worker can qualify and obtain benefits during the furlough periods.

IDES also published several FAQs outlining the various circumstances when an employee who otherwise would be ineligible for unemployment benefits can obtain them if the employee is out of work because of a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in response to the question: What if I leave work because my child’s school has temporarily closed, and I feel I have to stay home with the child? IDES explained that typically an individual who left work to address child care needs would be disqualified. However, since all schools statewide are closed and there are unlikely alternatives for childcare, an individual who left work to care for the child could be considered as unemployed through no fault of his her own and qualified for benefits as long as the individual meets the other eligibility requirements (be able and available for work from the confines of home, registered with the state employment service, and actively seeking work from the confines of home, assuming the individual is qualified and such work is available).

Unlike Missouri, IDES is still charging COVID-19 related claims to employers’ unemployment insurance accounts. However, there is a push by the business community and industry groups to enact legislation that would universalize such layoffs or terminations instead of making them solely charged to the individual employer, but that has yet to come to fruition.

Finally, across the country, independent contractors, business proprietors and some individuals not typically covered by unemployment benefits may also be able to obtain benefits if they experience a lack of work due to COVID-19 restrictions. Again, each situation is being analyzed on a case-by-case basis by each state.

Our Employment & Labor Practice Group is continuing to monitor these developments and is available to answer your coronavirus questions.

Link to COVID-19 Resources page

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