Callers Share Coronavirus Job, Health Questions With State Rep.

Callers Share Coronavirus Job, Health Questions With State Rep.

Journal and Topics


Anne Lunde

Journal & Topics Media Group

While Illinois citizens are concerned with the health risks of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the impacts on their livelihoods from a prolonged requirement to stay at home and avoid infection is of equal concern.

State Rep. Brad Stephens (R-20th) hosted a second telephone conference on March 31 for members in his district, focusing on jobs and how to apply for unemployment benefits.

Speakers included Rob Karr from Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), and two representatives from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), John Ferry, statewide program manager and Eric Congous, statewide adjudication manager.

Callers were given the opportunities to ask questions.

Some focused on health issues. In a coffee shop, should the servers wear protective gloves, or if they serve a drink to go, should they be changing gloves every time? Based on the desperate needs for gloves in caring for the growing number of very ill virus victims, it was suggested frequent handwashing with soap and water might be as effective.

Illinois citizens are ordered to stay at home, working there if they can, but not allowed to congregate. Businesses not considered essential are scaling back their workforces and in some cases, closing all together.

That led to over 133,763 Illinois claims for unemployment compensation by the end of last week, compared with over 27,000 claims in March 2019.

Others are limiting hours, in part so their staffs can thoroughly clean their buildings every night.

There were very specific questions. If people were placed on an unpaid leave of absence, could they apply for unemployment benefits? Could they qualify for benefits if they are self employed?

There is a separate program for people who may qualify for pandemic unemployment benefits. Ferry and Congous suggested trying. Some resources are new, like the federal stimulus package. Their agency address is

Stephens posts information from his conferences and Gov. Pritzker’s daily press briefing at his legislative office and will help track answers. Contact them by phone at 773-444-0611 and email


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