SCHAUMBURG, Ill. – To help support essential employees and those whose employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, state Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, recently supported legislation to increase penalties for assaulting frontline workers and expand access to unemployment benefits for residents currently out of work.
“The unfortunate reality is that, through no fault of their own, thousands of residents across the state are out of work and unable to make ends meet while we ride out the pandemic,” Mussman said. “Helping our residents find relief from unexpected financial burdens is a huge priority of mine, and this law works to enable more workers to receive expanded unemployment benefits.”
The Mussman-backed Senate Bill 471 expands eligibility for unemployment benefits for workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and allows laid off or furloughed workers to recoup a larger percentage of their previous income. Statistics from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) show that there was a 469% increase in statewide claims from April of 2019 to April of 2020. Prior to the pandemic, the average unemployment benefit was only $387. The expansion of unemployment benefits aims to help stimulate the economy and keep families afloat at the state continues to battle COVID-19.
In addition to IDES expansions, Senate Bill 471 works to keep essential workers safe following statewide reports of physical attacks on front-line employees. The legislation reclassifies an incident of assault on an essential worker while he or she is on the job as aggravated battery.
“Essential workers continuously put their lives on the line every day to bring us food, keep us safe and keep us healthy. These attacks on essential workers are dangerous, and we need make sure they are protected, just as they have continued to protect us,” said Mussman. “This new law will protect first responders, health care employees, grocery store workers and other essential employees by strengthening the consequences for assaulting our essential personnel.”