Springfield State House Rescues Unemployment Fund
Illinois’ unemployment insurance fund has been on hiatus. Although the state added 30,000 jobs last month, officials say as more of Illinois’ jobless re-entered the workforce to apply for seasonal jobs, the influx of new searchers caused the jobless rate to rise from 10 percent in September to 10.1 percent in October. Unemployment figures are calculated with the number of jobless people who are actively seeking work.
Illinois added almost 66,000 jobs in 2011 alone and approximately 108,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010. The surge came following almost two years of recession in the Illinois job market and an unemployment rate cresting at 11.2 percent. The professional and business services industry added more jobs than any other industry with 10,600. Trade, transportation and utilities added nearly 5,500 jobs and educational and health services added 5,300.
Needless to say, the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the unemployment insurance it provides workers are indispensable instruments of state government—and not just for Illinois. With a national 9.1 percent unemployment rate, unemployed workers in states across the country rely on government handouts. Unfortunately, Illinois’ recent high unemployment rates have taken a toll on funding necessitating action from state lawmakers in Springfield.
Slipping to Desperate
In response to the need to help Illinois’ unemployed, Springfield politicians acted in unison to pass legislation outlining a plan for restoring dollars to the state’s unemployment fund. State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) says insurance for people without work is “vital.” A member of the Senate Labor Committee, he says an inability for families to obtain unemployment benefits could cause them to “slip from successful to desperate in a single day.”
Illinois’ unemployment fund is more than $2 billion in debt. In response, a plan to bolster the unemployment insurance program has been set forth by Illinois business leaders and the labor community who have collaborated with legislators to produce Senate Bill 72. Illinois is currently borrowing money from the federal government to meet the needs of the state’s jobless. Interest accrued from borrowing the money costs Illinois businesses millions. The new legislation allows provision for borrowing up to half the fund’s debt or up to $1 billion.
The bill will also save businesses millions of dollars in the next few years by allowing the state to issue bonds to borrow money at lower rates. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation in mid-November. The bill will save Illinois about $240 million over the coming years and will save businesses approximately $400 million.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn appeared on the MSNBC political talk show Morning Joe, hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, in November to discuss Illinois’ plans for boosting job growth. Acknowledging the financial deficit as well as the “ethical deficit” he inherited when he took over the governorship three years ago, Quinn applauded the benefits of 21st century technology and focused on speed trains as essential for job growth and a stable economic future for Illinois.
Despite current setbacks, the Governor says Illinois can still enjoy the perks of a stable economy based on specific developments including the state’s commitment to high-speed trains in the Chicago area. The state’s goal is to realize the benefits of high-speed, 140 mile-per-hour trains running from Chicago to St. Louis and between Chicago and Champaign by 2014.
The Governor claimed that for Illinois, job growth and agricultural exports go hand in hand. As one of the nation’s top states in agriculture, Illinois exports will greatly benefit from speed trains. Illinois is the number one exporting state in the U.S. not on located on either coast. Speed trains will open up new avenues and provide increasingly efficient methods for shipping Illinois agriculture products to various locations, therefore helping open new markets for Illinois and create new jobs in the state.