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Pritzker signs plan to eliminate debt in unemployment fund

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Governor JB Pritzker on Thursday he signed off on a measure that officials say will eliminate a $1.8 billion debt in the pandemic-battered account that pays unemployment benefits.

An unexpected increase in revenue fuels the plan, with $1.36 billion paying off a federal loan handed out to Illinois and several other states when the coronavirus The pandemic shut down businesses and drove unemployment rates to 40-year highs. The withdrawal of that loan resulted in a $20 million interest payment due next fall.

The package, brokered between business and workers, Democrats and Republicans, also puts another $450 million into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. It will function as an interest-free loan that employers, who pay taxes to keep the fund running, will repay over a 10-year period.

Negotiator and Representative Jay Hoffman called the deal “real action in support of working families.”

“This plan protects benefits, saves employers money, improves our state’s financial prospects and provides long-term security to workers across Illinois,” said the Swansea Democrat.

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The money returned by the companies will flow into the State Budget Stabilization Fund, a savings account for unexpected tax cuts. Pritzker noted in a press release that it funneled $1 billion into the so-called Rainy Day Fund, the balance of which not long ago dropped to $60,000.

Critics have lambasted Pritzker for its stay-at-home orders for most businesses and schools in spring 2020 as COVID-19 intensifies. Pritzker stood by her decision and claims she saved thousands of lives.

Since the coronavirus was first detected in Illinois in January 2020, the Illinois Department of Public Health has counted 3.89 million cases of COVID-19, leading to 35,494 deaths.

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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