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'Illinois just wasn't prepared' | Self-employed workers wait weeks for help, as state sets date to accept applications

Self-employed workers out of a job right now can begin filing for pandemic unemployment assistance in Illinois on Monday

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, Ill — Self-employed workers out of a job right now can begin filing for pandemic unemployment assistance in Illinois on Monday.

New guidance from the state says the application portal for self-employed and gig workers will open Monday, May 11.

But those 1099 workers must apply for regular unemployment first and get denied, a news release from the Illinois Department of Employment Security explained.

"It's been pretty frustrating and confusing at the same time,” hair stylist Chrissy Cromer said.

RELATED: Illinois announces regional approach to reopening state in phases

Cromer works at Salon Lofts in Fairview Heights. She’s been unemployed since March 20.

“I have friends who work in Missouri who are having good luck with it. Illinois just wasn’t prepared,” she said.

“I don’t understand why they don’t have that system up and running yet,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, who represents Illinois' 13 District. "States like New York that have been ravaged by a higher infection rate than Illinois have their systems set up."

Davis said salon workers aren’t allowed to work, but the majority, who are self-employed, also can’t receive unemployment benefits yet. He wants them to be able to move early into Phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan so they can earn an income.

“I just think it should be considered, especially by region,” he said.

RELATED: Breaking down Illinois' 5-step reopening plan

Cromer is leery about reopening too early, even though she has control over her own space and works with just one client at a time.

"Because we literally stand over you and do your hair,” she said.

She’s keeping her fingers crossed for an early June return to the salon and banking on a successful unemployment filing Monday.

"Hopefully this goes smoothly, better than it has in the last few weeks,” she said.

The Department of Employment Security said pandemic unemployment assistance claims will be backdated to a worker’s first week of unemployment – no earlier than Feb. 2 – and will continue as long as the worker remains unemployed due to COVID-19 – but no later than December 26.

A spokesperson from the department later added that payment can be expected within one week.

"We expect anyone who has been denied regular UI to apply for PUA within the first few days and weeks. Although we anticipate the volume of new claims will drop after the initial wave, we expect ongoing claims to remain high as this pandemic persists," said Rebecca Cisco, with the Department of Employment Security.

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