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What Is Causing The Holdup For Unemployment Benefits For Gig Workers?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The State of Illinois said it will be another month before the first unemployment payments get to independent contractors and gig workers such as Uber drivers and musicians.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas asked Gov. JB Pritzker what is causing the holdup.

Randy Lancelot has snapped pictures of his ever-changing office over the years. He is a sound engineer who mixes the audio just right for bands at local music venues.

"I work in clubs like the Burlington Bar, Promontory," he said.

Now, Lancelot is not behind a soundboard, but instead a keyboard – searching for ways gig workers like him can get assistance.

"Generally, if there's not a show and we don't work, we don't get paid," Lancelot said.

Much like the musicians he mixes and the Uber drivers who take their fans home, Lancelot is an independent contractor – not typically eligible for unemployment benefits.

"Frankly, I'm not really sure why they're left out," Lancelot said.

The new federal stimulus package does include unemployment benefits for such workers, but Illinois is not ready to roll that out yet.

The first payments to gig workers won't go out until around this time next month.

"In order for us to qualify them, make sure they're doing it in the right way, it's going to take a few weeks to stand up that new system," said Gov. JB Pritzker.

The Governor's office said it is working with the Deloitte company to launch an unemployment webpage for independent contractors.

When Michigan started taking unemployment applications from gig workers Monday morning, so many flocked to the website that it crashed within hours. Still, Michigan said its gig workers will start getting payments as early as April 20 with the federal stimulus money.

But Gov. Pritzker said the federal funds are not available in Illinois yet.

"Federal money that comes to support that independent contractor support, it doesn't come until May, frankly," Pritzker said. "We've got to have a system where we can determine who is eligible and who is not before we can start distributing money that isn't here yet."

A representative for the governor later said in an email that Illinois will not get the federal funds until that system is up.

The governor's office said Michigan "had already utilized emergency employment aid in the past, so they had a system that was easier to stand up than ours."

Also, according to the state, many of the federal rules around the funding did not come out until this past Friday, April 10.

The governor said even though gig workers won't get paid until May, the pay will be back-dated – so they will be paid for their entire time off work.

You can apply now just like any other worker, and if it's denied for now, the same application will be considered in the weeks ahead for the separate, independent contractor benefits.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We'll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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