From the IEA:

May 15, 2020

In response to the Covid-19 crisis and its impact on our higher ed members, IEA has taken several steps to tackle the critical issue of unemployment for our part-time faculty and staff members.

  • We have sent this letter to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) contending that, under current conditions, there can be no “reasonable assurance” of work in the fall—even for adjuncts who have received a class assignment.
  • We have contacted several State legislators, and received support from Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, whose office is attempting to schedule a (virtual) meeting between IDES and our higher ed leaders.
  • We have prepared a comprehensive and updated step-by-step guide to help our members apply for unemployment. The long version can be requested by contacting Frank Brooks, higher education paraprofessional for IEA.
While some of you have filed for unemployment in the past, most have not. Here are some things to consider as you decide whether to file this summer.

If you are not working this summer, or if your work hours have been reduced, you should consider filing for unemployment compensation with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).

Why (now)?
In the past, employees of educational institutions have typically been excluded from eligibility for unemployment benefits because they were assumed to have “reasonable assurance” of continued employment after the summer “break.”

In 2016, state agencies were instructed by the U.S. Department of Labor to assess whether such employees had reasonable assurance by considering the “totality of circumstances.”

That “totality of circumstances” has changed for everyone because of COVID-19. Uncertainty about how higher education institutions will operate in the fall and how many classes will be available means that contingent faculty in particular do NOT have “reasonable assurance” of continued employment.

Unless you have a multi-year teaching contract with your employer or you are certain that you will receive a class in the fall, you should consider filing. “Contract” in this context does NOT refer to your union’s collective bargaining agreement with the employer. “Contract” also does not mean an “assignment letter” which has contingencies attached to it, such as sufficient student enrollment or the possibility that a full-time instructor may bump you to make their load. Unless you have a bona fide contract, IDES is required to assess whether or not you have “reasonable assurance.”

You should file as soon as your work for the spring term is completed (e.g. turning in grades). Filing is what starts the clock for benefits. Benefits are not retroactive to when you stopped working, but rather to when you started the filing process.

What if?
After you file, IDES may challenge your eligibility, so you may need to appeal this denial, explaining that you do not have reasonable assurance of continued employment (particularly during a pandemic). IEA can assist you in this process.

It also is possible that if IDES finds you ineligible under the “reasonable assurance” standard, you may instead now qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. This is part of the CARES Act and is designed for “gig workers” and those not otherwise eligible under existing rules.

Unfortunately, it also is possible that IDES will pay you benefits, but then determine later that you were not actually eligible. They would then expect you to pay back any benefits. Neither an employer nor a union can guarantee whether an individual will qualify for regular unemployment benefits or federal stimulus unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act. See the IEA’s CARES Act Unemployment Benefits Summary for more information.

As with most government programs designed to help people in need, the bureaucratic process for getting that aid is not simple. Contact Frank Brooks for a detailed “how-to” document on navigating the process. IEA also plans on setting up filing webinars in the near future.

NEA Webinar on Unemployment

Click here to watch the recording of the webinar: https://zoom.us/rec/share/99wkdL_-2D5Ob6vB6GP4YJQ4I47-X6a8gSlM8_Vfn0_UFYH3D3kG3iK9Lq9mF_MS

And click here to download the presentation: https://educationvotes.nea.org/paid-leave-and-unemployment-rights-member-webinar-final/

NEA is dedicated to helping educators navigate the coronavirus crisis. This webinar was one of a whole host of resources we’re creating for you. We’re here to help with advice for engaging students online, strategies for maintaining support for the most vulnerable, words of encouragement, ways to alleviate stress and avoid burnout, and more.

The NEA EdAction Team


Expanded unemployment insurance: the CARES Act (FED) expands unemployment benefits in two ways. First, for those who are eligible for Illinois Unemployment Insurance, you will now receive additional money in your benefit (an additional $600 per week) and your eligibility period has been extended by 13 weeks. Previously, Illinois unemployment insurance had waived the waiting period, redefined “actively searching for work,” and expanded to cover those who are unable to work because they must care for someone else. Details on the Illinois Unemployment Insurance program are here.

Second, Disaster Unemployment Assistance is being established for those who don’t traditionally qualify for unemployment insurance (including self-employed, freelance, and gig workers). Information is not yet available, but will be included on the Illinois Department of Employment Security website when they are available.

The CARES Act—Notable Provisions for Institutions of Higher Education

NEA Webinar, 4-3: