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Some Contract Workers Say Their PUA Benefits Are Being Cut Off With No Notice

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A new roadblock has been thrown up for contract workers getting unemployment benefits.

Many were notified Tuesday that the benefits they are expecting are being cut off. And as CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, they did not see this coming – they were blindsided and said they got no notice.

Now, they have lots of concern.

"It's hard to see so many people struggle," said one woman named Catherine.

Catherine considered herself one of the fortunate ones when it came to getting unemployment benefits – specifically Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA.

"I was like in the first 500 people that applied," Catherine said, "and since then, I'd never had an issue."

But that changed this week, when the single mom – who did not want her last name revealed – got a notice from the Illinois Department of Employment Security informing her the "the High Unemployment Period... had ended, and the additional seven benefit weeks are no longer available.

The notice also stated Catherine has "exhausted the maximum number of weeks" and benefits are "no longer payable" effective the week of Feb. 21.

"There was no notice," she said. "There was no indication that this was changing."

Not only was it a shock, but Catherine said her account is still listed as active, shows a balance of $11,286, and shows she has six weeks of remaining benefits.

"So I'm losing out on, you know, six weeks – plus an additional $900 from the federal supplement," she said.

The loss of money has a serious impact when it comes to Catherine's ability to pay her bills.

"It makes it very impossible," Catherine said. "I mean, PUA has been a lifesaver."

On Wednesday, IDES said federal rules end the extension of unemployment benefits for those who are self-employed.

In a news release, IDES said because the state's unemployment rate has dropped, "federal rules now prohibit individuals from seeking seven additional weeks of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a new federal effort to cover individuals who did not qualify for regular unemployment and which largely covers those who are self-employed."

Governor JB Pritzker said he wants Congress to establish "long-term rules that help the people most hurt by this pandemic, and why it's imperative that they pass something immediately that corrects this gap."

"Our federal leaders must come together around a solution, and we will be ready to help people get the benefits they need to get through this pandemic," he added.

IDES said the state's unemployment rate is now below the threshold for the state's High Unemployment Period (HUP) to be active. That's according to data from the federal government.

"Under federal law, when a state is in the HUP, there are seven additional weeks added to PUA eligibility, as well as seven additional weeks added to Extended Benefits (EB) eligibility under state law.  As a result of Illinois' unemployment rate dropping, under state and federal law, the seven additional weeks for both programs are no longer available."

Anyone with questions or in need of assistance with unemployment benefits at this time are encouraged to visit

IDES spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco released a statement saying indeed extended PUA benefits are being cut off.

"Under federal law, when a state is triggered on to a High Unemployment Period (HUP), there are 7 additional weeks added to PUA eligibility, as well as the 7 weeks added to Extended Benefits (EB) eligibility under Illinois law. Illinois has triggered off of HUP, and under the law the 7 additional weeks for both programs are no longer available. PUA has decreased to a maximum of 50 weeks, and EB has decreased to a maximum of 13 weeks. Claimants who exhausted, or who will soon exhaust, their fiftieth week or more of PUA will be notified that they have reached the maximum weeks allowable under federal law, meaning PUA claimants who exhausted benefits are no longer eligible for PUA beginning February 21, 2021, barring further federal action. This is a consequence outside the control of IDES or Illinois law, based solely in federal law. IDES is bound to adhere to the federal law and regulations."

Cisco could not say if any of this could change if the stimulus package being debated on Capitol Hill is passed, and also could not say if people were notified after the fact.

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