Extended jobless benefits ending in Illinois

Extended jobless benefits ending in Illinois

CHAMPAIGN — Carl Agoston said he was shocked to learn his unemployment benefits will end this month, as a result of the state's unemployment rate going down.

Agoston, laid off in October 2010 as a mental health counselor at the Champaign County Correctional Center, said he was notified Wednesday his extended benefits were coming to an end.

Agoston has been seeking jobs in mental health and addictions since being laid off. But as the single parent of a 15-year-old son, "I'm going to have to look at whatever outside of that range," he said.

He said he'll wait tables, if that's what it takes.

The federal extended-benefit program will end May 12 in Illinois, because Illinois' falling unemployment rate makes the state no longer eligible for that money.

The extended-benefit program provides 20 weeks of unemployment insurance, on top of 79 other weeks.

But for a state to continue to be eligible for extended benefits, the three-month moving average of the state's unemployment rate must be at least 10 percent higher than the same period in any one of the previous three years.

On Wednesday, Illinois said it no longer meets that requirement. The state unemployment rate, which peaked at 11.4 percent in January 2010, fell to 8.8 percent in March of this year.

Final payments will be issued during the two weeks following May 12. After that, Agoston will no longer get unemployment compensation that, for him, amounts to about $13 an hour.

The Champaign man said he and his son will have to make do on less money. At the same time, he realizes people working minimum-wage jobs get less per hour than what he got from unemployment compensation.

Before working for the correctional center, Agoston said he worked for the Champaign County Mental Health Center and Prairie Center.

While out of a job, he "did a bunch of volunteer work" and got paid for working with an addictions group a few hours a week, he said.

"Trying to open my own business wasn't an option," he added.

Agoston said he has been applying for positions at Parkland College and the University of Illinois in psychology, research and academic advising, and hopes to land a job locally.

"I've lived here now for 18 years, and my entire career has taken place in the community," he said.

Agoston said he might have to consider moving away to take a job, but realizes there are costs involved in relocating.

In announcing the end of extended benefits this week, Jay Rowell, director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security, hailed the drop in the unemployment rate, but noted "there are still those struggling to find work."

"I encourage anyone who is unemployed or underemployed to visit IllinoisJobLink.com, where they will find more than 90,000 job openings," he said in a release.

That website allows businesses to create want-ads that require specific skills and search resumes using keywords such as salary, educational attainment and location.

Now that the extended-benefit program is ending in Illinois, the maximum number of weeks of unemployment compensation will drop to 79 weeks — and that number could drop further by year's end.

The 79 weeks are divided between regular benefits — paid for by Illinois businesses — and four tiers of Emergency Unemployment Compensation paid for by the federal government.

But under current law, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is scheduled to end Dec. 29, according to the state release.


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mspontiac wrote on May 05, 2012 at 11:05 am

How about the state yank welfare benefits from people who refuse to work, and help out people like this gentleman who have worked to support themselves all of their lives only to lose their jobs due to circumstances they couldn't control? I work with the public and it's incredible how many people come in and say, "I'm not worried about it, I ain't payin' for it anyway" when suggestions are made to cut costs.....so frustrating to see able bodied people sponging off of the system when people like this man want to work and can't.

areader wrote on May 05, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Excellent point!!!!!  The SPONGES in this state (and they know who they are) need to get off their dead "backsides" and stop taking advantage of the system!  I wish the gentleman/his son in this article the very best--times are tough, but I do hope he can find employment!  GOOD LUCK!

narciblog wrote on May 06, 2012 at 7:05 am

I'm confused. Who exactly are these "sponges" of which you speak? The article says Mr. Agoston could get a job waiting tables, but apparently he is not a "sponge"? So, naturally, I'm a bit confused.

Oddly, It's almost as if you're trying to say something without actually coming out and saying it.

residentcu wrote on May 07, 2012 at 9:05 am

Agreed.  Two years without employment?  Waiting tables has not been an option until his benefits for 2 YEARS have now been suspended. There ARE jobs... perhaps just not THE job Mr. Agoston desires and feels he is qualified to perform.   

thelowedown wrote on May 05, 2012 at 8:05 pm

To receive unemployment benefits you have to prove that you are looking for a job.

rsp wrote on May 11, 2012 at 10:05 am

Looking for a job in your field that you are qualified for.

prideCU wrote on May 05, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Especially those students in college who get their grant refunds and take off. They aren't worried about having to pay it back. They won't. But please, let's make sure we separate those lazy bums who WON'T work and sponge from those who actually have a need and put the money to good use, get their education, a career and then pay it forward. Sadly, we don't get too many people like the latter because of the former. I admit, I have had to have the government help me with things like school grants and even some disability, however, I put it to good use and am still working on my career path. And there are not too many people who can outright pay for college. I have done without a lot of the luxuries that these punks who ditch after they get their refund have. I bought education-related items and that was it.

prideCU wrote on May 05, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I reread what the two of you said and I realize that neither of you were criticizing people who put the money to good use, just so you know. Unfortunately though, there are a lot of people who feel that people like the guy in the article do not deserve help even if they put it to good use. So, just know that I was not directing that at you.