WITH PODCAST: Pritzker talks plans for Unemployment Trust Fund, pandemic response

WITH PODCAST: Pritzker talks plans for Unemployment Trust Fund, pandemic response

By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker isn’t considering using federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to pay down a multi-billion-dollar Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund deficit, and he’s watching the state’s COVID-19 hospitalization numbers closely.

Those were two of the topics discussed during a 10-minute interview with Capitol News Illinois on Wednesday as part of a two-day media tour held by Pritzker after his Monday announcement that he was seeking reelection in 2022.

The reason Pritzker won’t consider using federal ARPA funds on the $4.2 billion Trust Fund deficit, he said, is because he did not believe it a permissible use of the funding, and he is hopeful that the federal government will provide aid or rule changes to accommodate the 17 states that have outstanding federal borrowing balances in their trust funds amounting to $54 billion cumulatively.

“You can’t actually use ARPA funds according to the rules of ARPA. You can’t repay any debt that’s already owed to the federal government,” Pritzker said in the interview with CNI, citing the state’s initial plan to repay pandemic related Municipal Liquidity Facility funding with the ARPA funds – a use later ruled impermissible.

Interim U.S. Treasury rules for ARPA funding and the plans of dozens of other states, however, contradict the governor’s statement on the use of ARPA funds to repay the Unemployment Trust Fund deficit. The Associated Press reported on May 27 that “at least 29 states already have transferred or proposed to use a total of more than $12 billion of federal coronavirus aid for their unemployment trust funds.”

Per the interim final rule, published May 17 in the Federal Register, “recipients may make deposits into the state account of the Unemployment Trust Fund … up to the level needed to restore the pre-pandemic balances of such account as of January 27, 2020, or to pay back advances received under Title XII of the Social Security Act.”

“States facing a sharp increase in Unemployment Insurance claims during the pandemic may have drawn down positive Unemployment Trust Fund balances and, after exhausting the balance, required advances to fund continuing obligations to claimants,” the Treasury guidance reads. “Because both of these impacts were driven directly by the need for assistance to unemployed workers during the pandemic, replenishing Unemployment Trust Funds up to the pre-pandemic level responds to the pandemic’s negative economic impacts on unemployed workers.”

During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Pritzker said, he spoke to President Joe Biden and Illinois’ congressional leaders to seek further federal assistance for the Trust Fund. He expounded Wednesday on what changes might be possible.

“Some of this has to do with whether or not there could be legislation that’s passed. And some of this is really changes in the rules that could be made,” he said. “Certainly, if we could extend the due date of the Trust Fund deficit to the federal government, that might be of assistance to us. So we’re looking at everything that’s available to us, because you know, all of us have the same goal, right, which is to get that deficit down without it being a burden to businesses or to workers.”

Business groups last week called on Pritzker to reinstate more stringent work search requirements for Illinoisans who are on unemployment, to end a $300 federal monthly payment to unemployed individuals earlier than its September end date, and to infuse the Trust Fund with federal ARPA dollars.

Each state has an Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund account maintained by the U.S. Treasury but funded by the state’s businesses through insurance premiums collected via payroll taxes. The rates at which businesses pay into Illinois’ fund are determined by a complex statutory formula.

The business community has warned that without a solution to the Trust Fund deficit, premium rates on employers could rise by the hundreds of millions, while unemployment benefits could decrease in the hundreds of millions come January.

While use of the ARPA funding would have to be approved by lawmakers, Pritzker’s administration and former governors have generally been heavily involved in the negotiating process on unemployment issues.

But Pritzker said he is hopeful federal action might come through before that time period. Earlier this month, Illinois’ U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, said he expects Congress to begin debating the next steps on unemployment as the current federal boost to benefits ends in September.

“The question is, where will we be based upon the support that we may get from the federal government and the reduction of the number of people who are on unemployment? So we’ll have to see where that ends up,” Pritzker said Wednesday.

For his part, Pritzker said he has expanded child care availability in an effort to encourage a return to the workforce and alleviate stresses on the system.

“The biggest thing that’s keeping many people from getting back to work is the fact that they have to handle child care. Sometimes it’s senior care. People who stepped out of their jobs because they needed to take care of somebody at home,” he said. “And so we’ve expanded massively the availability of child care, particularly for those up to $60,000 in earnings. …We now have available to people $1 a month child care, that’s for people who are at the poverty level and up to 250 percent of poverty level, people being able to pay only 7 percent of their earnings. So that’s a significant move forward to help people get back to work.”

As for the pandemic, Pritzker said his medical advisers tell him the main focus for monitoring disease spread should be intensive care bed and hospital bed usage. But he has not set a concrete metric for those numbers that would trigger another round of mitigations.

Those numbers were increasing statewide as of Wednesday night, although they were still far off pandemic highs. There were 119 ICU beds and 628 hospital beds in use by COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday. The state’s 3 percent case positivity rate was a high since May 7, five times its June 27 rate of 0.6 percent. The 1,993 new cases reported Thursday were a high since May 5.

“What I can tell you is getting people vaccinated is the most important thing we can do right now, encouraging people to wear masks when they’re indoors in crowded areas, encouraging children who are under 12 to wear masks when they go to school, ask parents to have them wear masks when they go to school,” Pritzker said. “But unvaccinated people make up 99% of all the deaths that are occurring in the state of Illinois.”

Still, the governor said he wasn’t considering vaccine passport requirements at this time.

Pritzker also touched on the state’s fiscal outlook and whether an energy bill is likely to pass the General Assembly this year. You can listen to the full interview on Capitol Cast here.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Leave a Comment





Local News

Vintage cars will again be rolling in the La Grange Pet Parade. The 78th edition of the parade starts at 9:30 a.m. June 1. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Folks urged to enter costume contest for La Grange Pet Parade

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch About 40,000 people are expected along the streets of downtown La Grange on Saturday morning June 1, with some of them dressing in costumes for the 78th annual La Grange Pet Parade. A costume contest has long been part of the parade, Molly Price, the parade’s executive director, said on…

Deputy Supt. of Public Works Ken Tucker (from left), Trustee Tim Kovel, Building Commissioner Matt Struve, Mayor Ernest Millsap, Public Works Superintendent Jody Kovel, Trustee Jorea Touranjeau, Trustee Dominic Misasi, and Trustee Lida Mills at the site of the new public works office building. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Hodgkins breaks ground on new public works building

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan The Village of Hodgkins is getting ready to welcome a new public works office building at its facility off of 67th Street, east of East Avenue. Village officials and public works employees gathered last month for a groundbreaking. Hodgkins Mayor Ernest Millsap explained the history behind the Paul G. Struve Public Works Building.…

Sandburg pitcher Ethan Highfill gets Marist's Aiden Cech to swing and miss on a pitch during a 7-3 Eagles' victory on May 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Baseball | Sandburg wins a playoff game, but falls to LW West in regional final

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent Sandburg won a playoff game for the first time in four postseasons, but for the second consecutive year its season came to an end at the hands of Lincoln-Way West. The Eagles (21-12) fell to the Warriors, 6-1, in the Class 4A Sandburg Regional championship game on May 25.…

The Chicago Red Stars' Penelope Hocking had her streak of three games with a goal stopped in a 1-0 loss to Louisville on May 25 in Bridgeview. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Emma Sears scores match’s lone goal as Louisville blanks Red Stars

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The Chicago Red Stars are miles ahead of where they were last year. The team secured its 16th point on May 12. In 2023, it had to wait until July 7 to hit its 16th point during a season in which it finished in last place in the NWSL.…

all sports 2

Sports Bits | St. Michael seventh-grader sets Illinois state record in 110-meter hurdles

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent • St. Michael School seventh-grader Tommy Walter set a grade-school state record en route to winning the Illinois Elementary School Association Class 2A 110-meter hurdles at the grade-school state meet held May 10-11 in East Peoria. Tommy set the Class 2A record in the event with a time of…

Water Polo Stock

Water Polo | Lions, Eagles, Macs, Crusaders and Mustangs earn All-State honors

Spread the love

Spread the loveAll-State water polo Lyons girls water polo standout Maya Mladjan was named to the Illinois Water Polo organization’s All-State first team. The Lions’ Delaney Judkins and Isabella Recker, and Mother McAuley’s Becca Engquist earned second-team honors. Sandburg’s Claire Donnell made the third team and the Mighty Macs’ Andi Moriarity made the fourth team.…

Chicago Christian's Grace Mullin is committed to Air Force. Chicago Christian photo

Chicago Christian’s Grace Mullin caps successful spring by committing to Air Force

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Grace Mullin has proven talents on the ground. In the future, the Chicago Christian graduate may show more talents in the air. After an incredible spring and track season, Mullin — who graduated May 23 — capped things off by committing to the Air Force Academy. This came less…

tennis stock

Boys Tennis State Finals | Lyons’ Jack McLane and Mason Mazzone take 2nd

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Two doubles teams from Lyons made deep runs at the IHSA Class 2A boys tennis state finals, with one of them bringing home some hardware. The boys state tennis finals were held at various sites in the north and northwest suburbs May 23-25. The Lions’ Jack McLane and Mason…

all sports

Postseason Roundup | Area teams still alive in playoffs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Several area baseball, softball, boys volleyball and girls soccer teams were still alive in the postseason heading into this week. Among those was two-time defending Class 3A champion Nazareth, which is competing in Class 4A this season. The Roadrunners, Brother Rice and Mount Carmel won regional titles. So did…

The St. Laurence 400 meter relay team of Harley Rizzs, Quinton Williams, Vincent Enoch and Monroe Thompson Jr. won the 2024 state championship in 41.94, becoming the first relay team in Vikings history to win a state title. Photo courtesy of St. Laurence High School

Boys State Track Finals | St. Laurence’s Harley Rizzs wins 100m title, helps Vikings to 400m relay gold

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent St. Laurence junior Harley Rizzs was a member of the Vikings football team that earned a 2023 Class 4A state runner-up trophy the day after Thanksgiving. He bettered that two days before Memorial Day when he became the first St. Laurence track athlete to win an individual state championship.…

Neighbors

Vintage cars will again be rolling in the La Grange Pet Parade. The 78th edition of the parade starts at 9:30 a.m. June 1. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Folks urged to enter costume contest for La Grange Pet Parade

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch About 40,000 people are expected along the streets of downtown La Grange on Saturday morning June 1, with some of them dressing in costumes for the 78th annual La Grange Pet Parade. A costume contest has long been part of the parade, Molly Price, the parade’s executive director, said on…

Deputy Supt. of Public Works Ken Tucker (from left), Trustee Tim Kovel, Building Commissioner Matt Struve, Mayor Ernest Millsap, Public Works Superintendent Jody Kovel, Trustee Jorea Touranjeau, Trustee Dominic Misasi, and Trustee Lida Mills at the site of the new public works office building. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Hodgkins breaks ground on new public works building

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan The Village of Hodgkins is getting ready to welcome a new public works office building at its facility off of 67th Street, east of East Avenue. Village officials and public works employees gathered last month for a groundbreaking. Hodgkins Mayor Ernest Millsap explained the history behind the Paul G. Struve Public Works Building.…

Sandburg pitcher Ethan Highfill gets Marist's Aiden Cech to swing and miss on a pitch during a 7-3 Eagles' victory on May 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Baseball | Sandburg wins a playoff game, but falls to LW West in regional final

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent Sandburg won a playoff game for the first time in four postseasons, but for the second consecutive year its season came to an end at the hands of Lincoln-Way West. The Eagles (21-12) fell to the Warriors, 6-1, in the Class 4A Sandburg Regional championship game on May 25.…

The Chicago Red Stars' Penelope Hocking had her streak of three games with a goal stopped in a 1-0 loss to Louisville on May 25 in Bridgeview. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Emma Sears scores match’s lone goal as Louisville blanks Red Stars

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The Chicago Red Stars are miles ahead of where they were last year. The team secured its 16th point on May 12. In 2023, it had to wait until July 7 to hit its 16th point during a season in which it finished in last place in the NWSL.…

all sports 2

Sports Bits | St. Michael seventh-grader sets Illinois state record in 110-meter hurdles

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent • St. Michael School seventh-grader Tommy Walter set a grade-school state record en route to winning the Illinois Elementary School Association Class 2A 110-meter hurdles at the grade-school state meet held May 10-11 in East Peoria. Tommy set the Class 2A record in the event with a time of…

Water Polo Stock

Water Polo | Lions, Eagles, Macs, Crusaders and Mustangs earn All-State honors

Spread the love

Spread the loveAll-State water polo Lyons girls water polo standout Maya Mladjan was named to the Illinois Water Polo organization’s All-State first team. The Lions’ Delaney Judkins and Isabella Recker, and Mother McAuley’s Becca Engquist earned second-team honors. Sandburg’s Claire Donnell made the third team and the Mighty Macs’ Andi Moriarity made the fourth team.…

Chicago Christian's Grace Mullin is committed to Air Force. Chicago Christian photo

Chicago Christian’s Grace Mullin caps successful spring by committing to Air Force

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Grace Mullin has proven talents on the ground. In the future, the Chicago Christian graduate may show more talents in the air. After an incredible spring and track season, Mullin — who graduated May 23 — capped things off by committing to the Air Force Academy. This came less…

tennis stock

Boys Tennis State Finals | Lyons’ Jack McLane and Mason Mazzone take 2nd

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Two doubles teams from Lyons made deep runs at the IHSA Class 2A boys tennis state finals, with one of them bringing home some hardware. The boys state tennis finals were held at various sites in the north and northwest suburbs May 23-25. The Lions’ Jack McLane and Mason…

all sports

Postseason Roundup | Area teams still alive in playoffs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Several area baseball, softball, boys volleyball and girls soccer teams were still alive in the postseason heading into this week. Among those was two-time defending Class 3A champion Nazareth, which is competing in Class 4A this season. The Roadrunners, Brother Rice and Mount Carmel won regional titles. So did…

The St. Laurence 400 meter relay team of Harley Rizzs, Quinton Williams, Vincent Enoch and Monroe Thompson Jr. won the 2024 state championship in 41.94, becoming the first relay team in Vikings history to win a state title. Photo courtesy of St. Laurence High School

Boys State Track Finals | St. Laurence’s Harley Rizzs wins 100m title, helps Vikings to 400m relay gold

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent St. Laurence junior Harley Rizzs was a member of the Vikings football team that earned a 2023 Class 4A state runner-up trophy the day after Thanksgiving. He bettered that two days before Memorial Day when he became the first St. Laurence track athlete to win an individual state championship.…