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Unemployed Chicago residents will see benefits shrink by $600 a week without pandemic relief package
For more than 10 years, it seemed like Gerardo Reyes never took a break from his job at a small printing press in Chicago unless it was a holiday.
Even with news about the increasing cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, he thought his job was secure and the business would stay afloat like it did during the 2007 recession. But it’s now been 18 weeks since Reyes was laid off from Rohner Press after it temporarily closed because of the pandemic.
He is among thousands of people in Illinois who could see their weekly unemployment benefits shrink unless Congress extends the COVID-19 federal pandemic-related unemployment compensation that has given workers an extra $600 a week of unemployment insurance — part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law March 27.
“I went from being crucial and very essential to nonessential and unemployed,” said Reyes, 42, who’s worked at the press since he graduated from college. “That was a reality check, that even when you think [you] have a guaranteed job, to knowing that anything can happen.”
This is the last week that workers like Reyes, of Little Village, can file a claim to receive the additional $600, which has been available for those who sought unemployment insurance from March 29 to July 25. The U.S. Senate continues working on an additional relief package, which could be split into several bills. U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia told Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria” that nearly 70% of people on unemployment received more than they did from their regular wages.
“It was important to do something substantial as the economy was being closed,” Scalia said on the Fox program. “But we’re in a different place. So I don’t see $600 as continuing.”
In Illinois, more than 600,000 people sought unemployment benefits earlier this month, according to data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The unemployment rate in Illinois is 14.6%, while the national unemployment rate is 11.1%. A person without dependents could receive up to $1,084 a week in Illinois, but that may drop to $484 a week by next week, according to IDES.
Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, said the $600 benefit didn’t stop people from returning to work, pointing out that the unemployment rate has not grown as much as expected. But the extra $600 did give people the ability to refuse unsafe working conditions.
“It did what it was supposed to do — it kept the economy from collapsing and kept people home,” Evermore said.
She thinks getting rid of the benefit will lead to more people defaulting on mortgages and rent. “Immediately taking $2,400 out of everyone’s monthly pay sure sounds to me like a recipe for not being able to make rent,” Evermore said.
More news you need
- Following the shooting outside a South Side funeral home that wounded 15 people on Tuesday, local funeral directors expressed shock, while one announced new safety measures to minimize the possibility of another retaliatory shooting. At A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home in Park Manor, services will now be limited to morning hours.
- Illinois’ gradual rise in coronavirus cases took another step up today as health officials announced that 1,624 more people have tested positive, the state’s highest daily caseload in two months. Illinois’ daily case totals have already tipped into four digits 10 times in July, after only two four-digit days were recorded in June.
- Black Lives Matter Chicago filed suit today against several federal law enforcement agencies to prevent federal agents deployed in Chicago by President Trump from harassing and detaining protesters. “We know the authoritarian tactics they have planned because of what they’ve been doing in Portland,” said the plaintiff.
- The city of Chicago does a lousy job of cutting tall weeds on vacant lots, contributing to blight on the South and West sides, a watchdog says. And Chicago’s record-keeping is so bad, it cited its own properties for violations more than 5,000 times last year.
- A man who gave his company credit card to an escort he met online has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for the resulting $5.79 million fraud scheme. Following an apology from Scott Kennedy, a judge said: “It’s hard to imagine what you really got out of this.”
A bright one
After a financially damaging four-month-plus closure because of safety restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many museums across Chicago have already reopened, or are set to reopen in the next few weeks.
The Elmhurst Art Museum opened its doors again on June 30, and the Chicago History Museum did the same on July 10. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Field Museum will begin welcoming the public on July 24, and the Art Institute of Chicago has chosen a restart date of July 30.
“We’ve all been waiting for this, and it’s exciting to welcome people back,” said Kati Murphy, the Art Institute’s executive director of public affairs. “Having the first week free for Illinois residents, it really feels like we’re rolling out the red carpet for the people of Chicago and Illinois who have missed the opportunity to experience culture.”
Each institution reinitiating on-site operations has adopted a set of protocols to keep visitors and staff as safe as possible. These include supplementary cleaning, augmented contactless interaction, additional spacing and one-way pathways, plus closures of small and constricted galleries.
From the press box
With Opening Day coming tomorrow, we want to make sure you’re ready to tune into your favorite team’s games on TV: Here’s how to watch all 60 Cubs games this season, and here’s how to watch all 60 White Sox games.
And the Blackhawks got some welcomed news this morning as Jonathan Toews, Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy all returned to practice. Those three will likely be crucial to the team having any success once the NHL postseason starts up soon.
“Polling Place” — your weekly home for @suntimes sports polls on Twitter — is back. V-O-T-E! Selected comments will appear in our Sports Saturday print edition.— Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) July 23, 2020
QUESTION 1: Better team in 2020, the Cubs or White Sox?
Your daily question ☕
Are you dating during the coronavirus pandemic? What has that been like for you?
Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
Yesterday, we asked you if any of your favorite local businesses have been forced to permanently shut down. Here’s what some of you said…
“New Vision Theatre in Lansing, Illinois.” — Danielle Jones
“Mather’s shut down. Too bad. It was a nice resource for the Chatham neighborhood.” — Michael Marsh
“El Gordo Mexican restaurant and Birria Aguascalientes on Belmont and Austin both closed due to COVID-19.” — Ernesto Torres
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